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England's effort 
towards the goal 
fields of victory 


Fields of Victory 

To the Allied Armies 

L- 1342] [British Official Photograph 

The St. Quentin Canal which was crossed by the 46th in life-belts. 

Fields of Victory 


Mrs. Humphry Ward 

With Illustrations, Colored Map and Folding 
Statistical Chart 

New York 

Charles Scribner's Sons 


Copyright, 1919, by 

Published September, 1919 
Copyright, i919, by the evening mail syndicate 

6EP iu 1919 




A Word of Introduction vii 

I. France Under the Armistice ... 3 

II. The Defensive Battle of Last Spring 27 

III. Tanks and the Hindenburg Line . . 57 

IV. General Gouraud at Strasbourg . . 92 

V. Alsace-Lorraine — The Glory of Ver- 
dun Ill 

VI. America in France 143 

VII. America in France {continued) . . . 166 

VIII. "Features of the War" 184 

IX. Tanks and Aeroplanes — The Staff 

Work of the War 213 

Epilogue 258 

Appendix — ^Explanation of Chart . . 269 


May 26th. 
It is a bold thing, I fear, to offer the pubHc 
yet more letters based on a journey through 
the battle-fields of France — especially at a mo- 
ment when impressions are changing so fast, 
when the old forms of writing about the war 
seem naturally out of date, or even distasteful, 
and the new are not yet born. Yet perhaps 
in this intermediate period, the impressions of 
one who made two journeys over some of the 
same ground in 1916 and 1917, while the great 
struggle was at its height, and on this third 
occasion found herself on the Western front 
just two months after the Armistice, may not 
be unwelcome to those who, like myself, feel 
the need of detaching as soon as possible some 
general and consistent ideas from the infinite 
complexity, the tragic and bewildering detail, 
of the past four years. The motive which 
sent me to France three months ago was the 
wish to make clear to myself if I could, and 
thereby to others, the true measure of the 
part played by the British Empire and the 



British Armies in the concluding campaigns 
of the war. I knew that if it could be done at 
all at the present moment — and by myself — 
it could only be done in a very broad and sum- 
mary way; and also that its only claim to 
value would lie in its being a faithful report, 
within the limits I had set myself, of the 
opinions of those who were actually at the 
heart of things, i, e., of the British Higher 
Command, and of individual officers who had 
taken an active part in the war. For the view 
taken in these pages of last year's campaigns, 
I have had, of course, the three great des- 
patches of the British Commander-in-Chief 
on which to base the general sketch I had in 
mind; but in addition I have had much kind 
help from the British Headquarters in France, 
where officers of the General Staff were still 
working when I paid a wintry visit to the 
famous Ecole Militaire at the end of January; 
supplemented since my return to London by 
assistance from other distinguished soldiers 
now at the War Office, who have taken trouble 
to help me, for which I can never thank them 
enough.* It was, naturally, the aim of the 

* My thanks are especially due to Lieut .-Colonel Boraston, of the 
General Staff, and also to my friend Colonel John Buchan, whose 
wonderful knowledge of the war, as shown in his History, has done 
so much during the last four years to keep the public at home in 


little book which won it sympathy; the fact 
that it was an attempt to carry to its natural 
end, in brief compass, the story which, at Mr. 
Roosevelt's suggestion, I first tried to tell in 
EnglandJs Effort, published in 1916. Eng- 
land's Effort was a bird's-eye view of the first 
two years of the war, of the gathering of the 
new Armies, of the passing into law, and the 
results — up to the Battle of the Somme — of 
the Munitions Act of 1915. In this book, 
which I have again thrown into the form of 
letters — (it was, in fact, written week by week 
for transmission to America after my return 
home from France) — I have confined myself 
to the events of last year, and with the special 
object of determining what ultimate effect 
upon the war was produced by that vast 
military development of Great Britain and the 
Empire, in which Lord Kitchener took the 
first memorable steps. It seemed to me, at 
the end of last year, as to many others, that 
owing, perhaps, to the prominence of certain 
startling or picturesque episodes in the history 
of 1918, the overwhelming and decisive influ- 
ence of the British Armies on the last stage 

touch with all the forces of the Allies, but especially with the British 
Armies and the British Navy, throughout the whole course of the 


of the struggle had been to some extent ob- 
scured and misunderstood even amongst our- 
selves — still more, and very naturally, amongst 
our Allies. Not, of course, by any of those in 
close contact ^ith the actual march of the 
war, and its directing forces; but rather by 
that floating public opinion, now more intelli- 
gent, now more ignorant, which plays so 
largely on us all, whether through conversa- 
tion or the press. 

My object, then, was to bring out as clearly 
as I could the part that the British Armies in 
France, including, of course, the great Do- 
minion contingents, played in the fighting of 
last year. To do so, it was necessary also to 
try and form some opinion as to the respective 
shares in the final result of the three great 
Armies at work in France in 1918; to put the 
effort of Great Britain, that is, in its due re- 
lation to the whole concluding act of the war. 
In making such an attempt I am very con- 
scious of its audacity; and I need not say that 
it would be a cause of sharp regret to me 
should the estimate here given — which is, 
of course, the estimate of an Englishwoman 
— offend any French or American friend of 
mine. The justice and generosity of the best 
French opinion on the war has been con- 


spicuously shown on many recent occasions; 
while the speech in Paris the other day of the 
Dean of Harvard as to the relative parts in 
the war — on French soil — of the Big Three — 
and the reception given to it by an audience 
of American officers have, I venture to think, 
stirred and deepened affection for America in 
the heart of those English persons who read 
the report of a remarkable meeting. But 
there is still much ignorance both here at 
home and among our Allies, on both sides of 
the sea, of the full part played by the forces 
of the British Empire in last year's drama. 
So it seemed to me, at least, when I was trav- 
elling, a few months ago, over some of the 
battle-fields of 1918; and I came home with a 
full heart, determined to tell the story — the 
last chapter in England^ s Effort — broadly and 
sincerely, as I best could. It was my firm 
confidence throughout the writing of these 
letters that the friendship between Britain, 
France, and America — a friendship on which, 
in my belief, rests the future happiness and 
peace of the world — can only gain from free 
speech and from the free comparison of opin- 
ion. And in the brilliant final despatch of 
Sir Douglas Haig which appeared on April 
12th, after six letters had been written and 


sent to America, will be found, I venture to 
suggest, the full and authoritative exposition 
of some at least of the main lines of thought 
I have so imperfectly summarised in this 
little book. 

The ten letters were written at intervals 
between February and May. It seemed bet- 
ter, in republishing them, not to attempt 
much recasting. They represent, mainly, the 
impressions of a journey, and of the conver- 
sations and reading to which it led. I have 
left them very much, therefore, in their orig- 
inal form, hoping that at least the freshness 
of "things seen" may atone somewhat for 
their many faults. 

Fields of Victory 




London, February^ 1919. 

A bewildering three weeks spent in a per- 
petually changing scene — changing, and yet, 
outside Paris, in its essential elements terribly 
the same — that is how my third journey to 
France, since the war began, appears to me 
as I look back upon it. My dear daughter- 
secretary and I have motored during January 
some nine hundred miles through the length 
and breadth of France, some of it in severe 
weather. We have spent some seven days on 
the British front, about the same on the French 
front, with a couple of nights at Metz, and a 
similar time at Strasburg, and rather more 
than a week in Paris. Little enough ! But 
what a time of crowding and indelible impres- 
sions ! Now, sitting in this quiet London 
house, I seem to be still bending forward in 
the motor-car, which became a sort of home 


to us, looking out, so intently that one's eyes 
suffered, at the unrolling scene. I still see 
the grim desolation of the Ypres salient; the 
heaps of ugly wreck that men call Lens and 
Lievin and Souchez; and that long line of 
Notre Dame de Lorette, with the Bois de 
Bouvigny to the west of it — where I stood 
among Canadian batteries just six weeks be- 
fore the battle of Arras in 1917. The lament- 
able ruin of once beautiful Arras, the desola- 
tion of Douai, and the villages between it and 
Valenciennes, the wanton destruction of what 
was once the heart of Cambrai, and that grim 
scene of the broken bridge on the Cambrai — 
Bapaume road, over the Canal du Nord, 
where we got out on a sombre afternoon, to 
look and look again at a landscape that will 
be famous through the world for generations: 
they rise again, with the sharpness of no or- 
dinary recollection, on the inward vision. So 
too Bourlon Wood, high and dark against the 
evening sky; the unspeakable desolation and 
ruin of the road thence to Bapaume; Bapaume 
itself, under the moon, its poor huddled heaps 
lit only, as we walked about it, by that strange, 
tranquil light from overhead, and the lamps 
of our standing motor-car; some dim shapes 
and sights emerging on the long and thrice- 


famous road from Bapaume to Albert, first, 
the dark mound of the Butte de Warlencourt, 
with three white crosses on its top, and once 
a mysterious Hght in a fragment of a ruined 
house, the only light I saw on the whole long 
downward stretch from Bapaume to Albert. 
Then the church of Albert, where the hanging 
Virgin used to be in 1917, hovering above a 
town that for all the damage done to it was 
then still a town of living men, and is now a 
place so desolate that one shrinks from one's 
own voice in the solitude, and so wrecked that 
only the traffic directions here and there, writ 
large, seem to guide us through the shapeless 
heaps that once were streets. And, finally, the 
scanty lights of Amiens, marking the end of the 
first part of our journey. 

These were the sights of the first half of our 
journey. And as they recur to me, I under- 
stand so well the anxious and embittered mood 
of France, which was so evident a month ago;* 
though now, I hope, substantially changed by 
the conditions of the renewed Armistice. No 
one who has not seen with his or her own eyes 
the situation in Northern France can, it seems 
to me, realise its eflfects on the national feeling 
of the country. And in this third journey of 

* These pages were written in the first week of February. 


mine, I have seen much more than Northern 
France. In a motor drive of some hundreds 
of miles, from Metz to Strasburg, through 
Nancy, Toul, St. Mihiel, Verdun, Chalons, 
over the ghastly battle-fields of Champagne, 
through Rheims, Chateau-Thierry, Vaux, to 
Paris, I have always had the same spectacle 
under my eyes, the same passion in my heart. 
If one tried to catch and summarise the sort 
of suppressed debate that was going on round 
one, a few weeks ago, between Allied opin- 
ion that was trying to reassure France, and 
the bitter feeling of France herself, it seemed 
to fall into something like the following dia- 

"All is well. The Peace Conference is 
sitting in Paris." 

"Yes — but what about France .^'* 

"President Wilson and Mr. Lloyd 
George have gradually brought the re- 
calcitrant elements into hne. The League 
of Nations is a reality." 

" Yes — but what about France ? Has 
the President been to see these scores of 
ruined towns, these hundreds of wiped-out 
villages, these fantastic wrecks of mines 
and factories, these leagues on leagues 


of fruitful land given back to waste, 
these shell-blasted forests, these broken 
ghosts of France's noblest churches?" 

"The President has made a Sunday 
excursion from Paris to Rheims. He saw 
as much as a winter day of snow and fog 
would allow him to see. France must 
be patient. Everything takes time." 

"Yes ! — so long as we can be sure that 
the true position is not only understood, 
but felt. But our old, rich, and beautiful 
country, with all the accumulations on 
its soil of the labour, the art, the thought 
of uncounted generations, has been in 
this war the buffer between German sav- 
agery and the rest of Europe. Just as 
our armies bore the first brunt and held 
the pass, till civilisation could rally to 
its own defence, so our old towns and 
villages have died, that our neighbours 
might live secure. We have suffered most 
in war — ^we claim the first thought in 
peace. We live in the heart and on the 
brink of danger. Our American Allies 
have a No Man's Land of the Atlantic 
between them and the formidable and 
cruel race which has wreaked this ruin, 
and is already beginning to show a Hydra- 


like power of recuperation, after its de- 
feat; we have only a river, and not al- 
ways that. We have the right to claim 
that our safety and restoration, the safety 
of the country which has suffered most, 
should at this moment be the first thought 
of Europe. You speak to us of the 
League of Nations.^ — ^By all means. Re- 
adjustments in the Balkans and the East ? 
— As much as you please. But here 
stands the Chief Victim of the war — and 
to the Chief Victim belongs of right the 
chief and first place in men's thoughts, 
and in the settlement. Do not allow us 
even to begin to ask ourselves whether, 
after all, we have not paid too much for 
the aUiance we gloried in?" 

Some such temper as this has been showing 
itself since the New Year, in the discontent of 
the French Press, in the irritation of French 
talk and correspondence. And, of course, 
behind the bewildered and almost helpless 
consciousness of such a loss in accumulated 
wealth as no other European country has 
ever known before, there is the ever-burning 
sense of the human loss which so heavily 
deepens and complicates the material loss. 


One of the French Ministers has lately said 
that France has lost three millions of popula- 
tion, men, women, and children, through the 
war. The fighting operations alone have cost 
her over a million and a half, at least, of the 
best manhood of France and her Colonies. 
One million and a half ! That figure had be- 
come a familiar bit of statistics to me; but it 
was not till I stood the other day in that vast 
military cemetery of Chalons, to which Gen- 
eral Gouraud had sent me, that, to use a 
phrase of Keats, it was "proved" upon "one's 
own pulses." Seven thousand men lie buried 
there, their wreathed crosses standing shoulder 
to shoulder, all fronting one way, like a divi- 
sion on parade, while the simple monument 
that faces them utters its perpetual order of 
the day: "Death is nothing, so long as the 
Country lives. En Avant /" 

And with that recollection goes also another, 
which I owe to the same General — one of the 
idols of the French Army ! — of a little grave- 
yard far up in the wilds of the Champagne 
battle-field— the "Cimetiere de Mont Muret," 
whence the eye takes in for miles and miles 
nothing but the trench-seamed hillsides a<nd 
the bristling fields of wire. Here on every 
grave, most of them of nameless dead, col- 


lected after many months from the vast battle- 
field, he heaped the last possessions of the 
soldier who sleeps beneath — ^his helmet, his 
haversack, his water-bottle, his spade. These 
rusty spades were to me a tragic symbol, not 
only of the endless, heart-wearing labour 
which had produced those trenched hillsides, 
but also of that irony of things, by which that 
very labour which protected the mysterious 
and spiritual thing which the Frenchman calls 
patrie, was at the same time ruining and 
sterilising the material base from which it 
springs — ^the soil, which the Frenchman loves 
with an understanding tenacity, such as per- 
haps inspires no other countryman in the 
world. In Artois and Picardy our own Brit- 
ish graves lie thickly scattered over the mur- 
dered earth; and those of America's young 
and heroic dead, in the battle-fields of Sois- 
sons, the Marne, and the Argonne, have given 
it, this last year, a new consecration. But 
here in England our land is fruitful and pro- 
ductive, owing to the pressure of the sub- 
marine campaign, as it never was before; 
British farming and the American fields have 
cause to bless rather than to curse the war. 
Only in France has the tormented and poisoned 
earth itself been blasted by the war, and only 


in France, even where there are no trenches, 
have whole countrysides gone out of cultiva- 
tion, so that in the course of a long motor 
drive, the sight of a solitary plough at work, 
or merely a strip of newly ploughed land amid 
the rank and endless waste, makes one's 
heart leap. 

No ! — ^France is quite right. Her suflFering, 
her restoration, her future safety, as against 
Germany, these should be, must be, the first 
thought of the Allies in making peace. And it 
is diflScult for those of us who have not seen, 
to feeU as it is politically necessary, it seems 
to me, we should feel. 

Since I was in France, however, a fortnight 
ago, the proceedings in connection with the 
extension of the Armistice, and the new re- 
strictions and obligations laid on Germany, 
have profoundly affected the situation in the 
direction that France desires. And when the 
President returns from the United States, 
whither he is now bound, he will surely go — 
and not for a mere day or two ! — to see for 
himself on the spot what France has suffered. 
If so, some deep, popular instincts in France 
will be at once appeased and softened, and 
Franco-American relations, I believe, greatly 


No doubt, if the President made a mistake 
in not going at once to the wrecked districts 
before the Peace Conference opened — and no 
one has insisted on this more strongly than 
American correspondents — it is clear that it 
was an idealist's mistake. Ruins, the Presi- 
dent seems to have said to himself, can wait; 
what is essential is that the League of Nations 
idea, on which not Governments only, but 
peoples are hanging, should be rapidly "clothed 
upon" by some practical shape; otherwise the 
war is morally and spiritually lost. 

Certainly the whole grandiose conception of 
the League, so vague and nebulous when the 
President arrived in Europe, has been mar- 
vellously brought out of the mists into some 
sort of solidity, during these January weeks. 
Not, I imagine, for some of the reasons that 
have been given. An able American journalist, 
for instance, writing to the Times, ascribes the 
advance of the League of Nations project 
entirely to the close support given to the 
President by Mr. Lloyd George and the Brit- 
ish Government; and he explains this support 
as due to the British conviction "that the war 
has changed the whole position of Great 
Britain in the world. The costs of the strug- 
gle in men, in money, in prestige (the italics 


are mine), have cut very deeply; the moral 
efifect of the submarine warfare in its later 
phase, and of last year's desperate campaign, 
have left their marks upon the Englishman, 
and find expression in his conduct. . . . Brit- 
ish comment frankly recognises that it will 
never again be within the power of Great 
Britain, even if there were the desire, to 
challenge America in war or in peace." 

In other words, the support given by Great 
Britain to President Wilson's ideas means that 
British statesmen are conscious of a loss of 
national power and prestige, and of a weak- 
ened Empire behind them. 

Hasty words, I think! — and. In my belief, 
very wide of the mark. At any rate I may 
plead that during my own month in France 
I have been in contact with many leading 
men in many camps, English, French, and 
American, and both military and diplomatic, 
especially with the British Army and its 
chiefs; and so far from perceiving in the 
frankest and most critical talk of our own peo- 
ple — and how critical we are of our own 
doings those know who know us best — ^any 
sense of lost prestige or weakened power, my 
personal impression is overwhelmingly the 
other way. We are indeed anxious and will- 


ing to share responsibilities, say in Africa, 
and the Middle East, with America as with 
France. Why not? The mighty elder power 
is eager to see America realise her own world 
position, and come forward to take her share 
in a world-ordering, which has lain too heavy 
until now on England's sole shoulders. She is 
glad and thankful — the ''weary Titan" — to 
hand over some of her responsibilities to 
America, and to share many of the rest. She 
wants nothing more for herself — the Great 
Mother of Nations— why should she.^ She 
has so much. But loss of prestige.^ The 
feeling in those with whom I have talked, is 
rather the feeling of Kipling's Recessional — a 
profound and wondering recognition that the 
Imperial bond has indeed stood so magnifi- 
cently the test of these four years, just as 
Joseph Chamberlain, the Empire-builder, be- 
lieved and hoped it would stand, when the 
day of testing came; a pride in what the 
Empire has done too deep for many words; 
coupled with the stubborn resolution, which 
says little and means everything — that the 
future shall be worthy of the past. 

And as to the feeling of the Army — it is 
expressed, and, as far as I have been able to 
judge from much talk with those under his 


command, most truly expressed, in Field- 
Marshal Sir Douglas Haig's December des- 
patch — ^which came out, as it happens, the 
very day I had the honour of standing at his 
side in the Commander-in-Chief's room, at 
G.H.Q., and looking with him at the last maps 
of the final campaign. ''The effect of the 
great assaults," says the Field-Marshal, "in 
which, during nine days of battle (September 
26th— October 5th), the First, Third, and 
Fourth Armies stormed the line of the Canal 
du Nord, and broke through the Hindenburg 
line, upon the subsequent course of the cam- 
paign, was decisive. . . . Great as were the 
material losses the enemy had suffered, the 
effect of so overwhelming a defeat upon a 
morale already deteriorated, was of even larger 
importance." Again: "By the end of Oc- 
tober, the rapid succession of heavy blows 
dealt by the British forces had had a cumula- 
tive effect, both moral and material, upon the 
German Armies. The British Armies were 
now in a position to force an immediate con- 
clusion." That conclusion was forced in the 
battle of the Sambre (1st to 11th November). 
By that "great victory," says Sir Douglas 
Haig, "the enemy's resistance was definitely 
broken;" and thus "in three months of epic 


fighting the British Armies in France had 
brought to a sudden and dramatic end the 
great wearing-out battle of the past four 

Do these sentences — ^the utterances of a 
man conspicuously modest and reticent in 
statement, indicate any consciousness of '*lost 
prestige" in "a last desperate campaign"? 

The fact is-^or so it seemed to me — that 
while the British Army salutes with all its 
heart, the glorious record of that veteran Army 
of France which bore the brunt of the first 
years of war, which held the gate at Verdun 
at whatever cost in heroic lives, and inscribed 
upon its shield last year the counter-attacks 
in the Marne salient, and the superb stand 
of General Gouraud in Champagne; and while, 
at the same time, it reahses and acknowledges 
to the full the enormous moral and military 
effect of the warm American tide, as it came 
rushing over France through the early summer 
of last year, and the gallantry of those splendid 
American lads, who, making mock of death, 
held the crossing of the Marne, took Bouresches 
and Belleau Wood, fought their hardest under 
General Mangin in the Soissons counter-attack 
of July 18th, and gallantly pushed their way, 
in spite of heavy losses, through the Argonne 


to the Meuse at the end of the campaign — 
there is yet no doubt in any British miUtary 
mind that it was the British Army which 
brought the war to its victorious end. The 
British Army had grown, after the great de- 
fensive battle of the spring, by a kind of na- 
tional rebound, of which there have been many 
instances in our history, to a wonderful mih- 
tary strength and eflBciency, and to it fell, 
not by any choice of its own, so to speak, but 
by the will of the gods, and the natural dis- 
position of events, the final and decisive strokes 
of the war. The French had already "saved 
Europe by their example," through three 
bloody and heroic years, and they were bound, 
in 1918, to economise, where possible, their 
remaining men; while, if the war had lasted 
another six months, or if America had come in 
a year earher, the decisive battles might well 
have fallen to the American Army and General 
Pershing. But, as it happened, the British 
Army was at its zenith of power, numbers, 
and eflSciency, when the last hammer-blows 
of the war had to be given — and our Army 
gave them. I do not beHeve there is a single 
instructed American or French officer who 
would deny this. But, if so, it is a fact which 
will and must make itself permanently felt 
in the consciousness of the Empire. 


In one of the bare rooms of that Ecole Mili- 
taire, at Montreuil, where the British General 
Staff has worked since 1916, I saw on a snowy- 
day at the end of January a chart covering 
an entire wall, which held me riveted. It 
was the war at a glance — so far as the British 
Army is concerned — ^from January, 1916, to 
the end. The rising or falling of our bayonet 
strength, the length of line held, casualties, 
prisoners — everything was there — and when 
finally the Hindenburg line is broken, after 
the great nine days of late September and early 
October, the prisoners' line leaps suddenly to 
such a height that a new piece has to be added 
perpendicularly to the chart, and the wall 
can hardly take it in. What does that leaping 
line mean ? Simply the collapse of the German 
morale — the final and utter defeat of the Ger- 
man Army as a fighting force. I hope with 
all my heart that the General Staff will allow 
that chart to be published before the fickle 
popular memory has forgotten too much of 
the war.* 

Let me then say, in recapitulation, and as 
presenting the main thesis of these papers, 

* By the kindness of General Sir Herbert Lawrence, Chief of the 
General Staff, I am able to give a small reproduction of this chart, 
which will be found at the end of the book, with an explanation written 
by Captain W. O. Barton. 


that to the British mind, at any rate, so in- 
articulate often, yet so tenacious, the Western 
campaign of last year presents itself as having 
been fought by three national Armies: 

(1) The veteran and glorious French Army, 
which, while providing in Marshal Foch the 
master-spirit of the last unified effort, was yet, 
after its huge sacrifices at Verdun, in Cham- 
pagne, and many another stricken field, in- 
evitably husbanding its resources in men, and 
yielding to the Armies of its Allies the hot- 
test work in the final struggle; 

(2) The British Army, which, after Its vic- 
torious reaction from its March defensive, was 
at the very height of its four years' devel- 
opment in men, training, and morale, and 
had already shown by the stand of the Third 
Army at Arras, at the very fiercest moment 
of the German onslaught, that although 
Germany might still attack, it was now cer- 
tain that, so long as the British Army was 
in the field, she could not win the war: and 

(3) The young and growing American Army, 
which had only been some six months In the 
fighting Une, and was still rather a huge 
promise, though of capital importance, both 
politically and mlUtarily, than a performance. 
It was brave and ardent, like a young eaglet. 


"with eyes intentive to bedare the sun;" but 
it had its traditions to lay down, its experi- 
ence to buy, and large sections of its military 
lesson still to learn. It could not, as a fight- 
ing force, have determined the war last year; 
and the war was finally won, under the su- 
preme command of a great Frenchman, by the 
British Army, acting in concert with the 
French and American armies — and supported 
by the British naval blockade, and the British, 
French, and Serbian military successes in the 

In such a summary I am, naturally, merely 
a porte-voix, trying to reproduce the thoughts 
of many minds, as I came across them in 
France. But if this is the general upshot of 
the situation, and the general settled convic- 
tion of the instructed British mind, as I believe 
it to be, our alliance with France and our friend- 
ship with America, so passionately upheld by 
all that is best in our respective nations, have 
both of them nothing to lose from its tem- 
perate statement. Great Britain, in spite of 
our national habit of running ourselves down, 
is not, indeed, supporting the League of 
Nations from any sense at all of lost prestige 
or weakened power, but from an idealism 
no less hopeful and insistent than that of 


America, coupled with a loathing of war no 
less strong. 

The League of Nations! — ^A year ago how 
many of us had given any serious thought to 
what was then a phrase, a dream, on which 
in the dark days of last spring it seemed a 
mere waste of time to dwell ? And yet, week 
by week, since the New Year began, the dream 
has been slowly taking to itself body and 

On the very day (January 25th) when the 
League of Nations resolution was passed at 
the Paris Conference, I happened to spend 
an interesting hour in President Wilson's 
company, at the Villa Murat. Mrs. Wilson, 
whose gentle kindness and courtesy were very 
widely appreciated in Paris, had asked me to 
come in at six o'clock, and await the Presi- 
dent's return from the Conference. I found 
her with five or six visitors round her, members 
of the Murat family, come to pay a visit to 
the illustrious guest to whom they had lent 
their house — the Princesse Murat, talking flu- 
ent EngUsh, her son in uniform, her widowed 
daughter and two dehcious httle children. 
In Httle more than five minutes, the President 
came in, and the beautiful room made a rich 


setting for an interesting scene. He entered, 
radiant, and with his first words, standing in 
our midst, told us that the Conference had 
just passed the League of Nations resolution. 
The two tiny children approached him, the 
little girl curtseyed to him, the little boy 
kissed his hand; and then they vanished, to 
remember, perhaps, fifty years hence, the dim 
figure of a tall and smiling man, whom they 
saw on a day marked in history. 

The President took his seat as the centre of 
our small circle. I am not going to betray 
the confidence of what was a private visit, 
but general impressions are not, I think, for- 
bidden. I still seem to see the Princesse Murat 
opposite me, in black, her fingers playing with 
her pearls as she talked; the French oflBcer 
with folded arms beside her; next to him the 
young widowed lady, whose name I did not 
catch, then Mrs. Wilson, with the intelligent 
face of her secretary. Miss Benham, in the 
background, and between myself and Princesse 
Murat, the easy, attractive presence of the 
man whom this old Europe, with one accord, 
is now discussing, criticising, blaming or ap- 
plauding. The President talked with perfect 
simplicity and great apparent frankness. 
There is a curious mingling in his face, it 


seemed to me, of something formidable, at 
times almost threatening, with charm and 
sweetness. You are in the presence of some- 
thing held in leash; that something is clearly 
a will of remarkable quality and power. You 
are also in the presence of something else, not 
less strongly controlled, a consciousness of 
success, which is in itseK a promise of further 
success. The manner has in it nothing of the 
dictator, and nothing of the pedant; but in 
the President's instinctive and accomplished 
choice of words and phrases, something re- 
minded me of the talk of George Eliot as I 
heard it fifty years ago; of the account also 
given me quite recently by an old friend and 
classmate of the President, describing the re- 
markable pains taken with him as a boy, by 
his father, to give him an unfailing command 
of correct and musical English. 

The extraordinary effectiveness lent by this 
ease and variety of diction to a man who 
possesses not only words but ideas, is strongly 
realised in Paris, where an ideal interpreter, 
M. Paul Mantoux, is always at hand to put 
whatever the President says into perfect 
French. M. Jusserand had given me an 
enthusiastic account, a few days before this 
little gathering at the Villa Murat, of an im- 


promptu speech at a luncheon given to the 
President by the Senate, and in Hstening to 
the President's conversation, I understood 
what M. Jusserand had felt, and what a 
weapon at need — (how rare also among public 
men !)— is this skilled excellence in expression, 
which the President commands, and com- 
mands above all, so some of his shrewdest 
observers tell me, when he is thrown suddenly 
on his own resources, has no scrap of paper 
to help him, and must speak as Nature and the 
Fates bid him. It is said that the irreverent 
American Army, made a little restive during 
the last months of the year by the number of 
Presidential utterances it was expected to 
read, and impatient to get to the Rhine, was 
settling down in the weeks before the Armis- 
tice, with a half -sulky resignation to "another 
literary winter." One laughs, but never were 
the art and practice of literature more signally 
justified as a power among men than by this 
former Professor and Head of a college, who 
is now among the leading political forces of 
the world. 

Well, we talked of many things — of the 
future local habitation of the League of Na- 
tions, of the Russian impasse, and the pros- 


pects of Prmkipo, of Mr. Lloyd George's 
speech that day at the Conference, of Siberia 
and Japan, of Ireland even ! There was no 
difficulty anywhere; no apparent concealment 
of views and opinions. But there was also no 
carelessness and no indiscretion. I came away 
feeUng that I had seen a remarkable man, on 
one of the red-letter days of his life; revolving, 
too, an old Greek tag which had become 
familiar to me: 

"Mortal men grow wise by seeing. But 
without seeing, how can any man foretell the 
future — how he may fare?" 

In other words, call no work happy till it is 
accomplished. Yes ! — but men and women are 
no mere idle spectators of a destiny imposed 
on them, as the Greeks sometimes, but only 
sometimes, beheved. They themselves make 
the future. If Europe wants the League of 
Nations, and the end of war, each one of us 
must turn to, and work, each in our own way. 
Since the day of the first Conference resolution, 
the great scheme, like some veiled Alcestis, 
has come a good deal further down the stage 
of the world. There it stands while we debate; 
as Thanatos and Heracles fought over the 
veiled queen. But in truth it rests with us, 
the audience, and not with any of the leading 


characters in the drama, to bring that still 
veiled figure into life and light, and to give it 
a lasting place in the world's household. 

Meanwhile the idea is born; but into a 
Europe still ringing with the discords of war, 
and in a France still doubtful and full of 
fears. There is a brooding and threatening 
presence beyond the Rhine. And among the 
soldiers going and coming between the Rhine 
bridge-heads and Paris, there is a correspond- 
ing and anxious sense of the fierce vitality of 
Germany, and of the absence of any real 
change of heart among her people. Mean- 
while the relations between Great Britain and 
America were never closer, and the determina- 
tion of the leading men in both countries to 
forge a bond beyond breaking between us 
was never so clear. There are problems and 
difliculties ahead in this friendship, as in all 
friendships, whether national or individual. 
But a common good-will will solve them, a 
common resolve to look the facts of the mo- 
ment and the hopes of the future steadily in 
the face. 




March, 1919. 

Among the impressions and experiences of 
my month in France there are naturally some 
that stand out in particularly high relief. I 
have just described one of them. But I look 
back to others not less vivid — an evening, for 
instance, with General Home and his staff; 
a walk along the Hindenburg line and the 
Canal du Nord, north and south of the Arras- 
Bapaume road; dinner with General Gouraud 
in the great building at Strasbourg, which was 
formerly the headquarters of the German 
Army Corps holding Alsace, and is now the 
French Prefecture; the eastern battle-field at 
Verdun, and that small famous room under 
the citadel, through which all the leaders of 
the war have passed; E-heims Cathedral 
emerging ghostly from the fog, with, in front 
of it, a group of motor-cars and two men 
shaking hands, the British Premier and the 
Cardinal- Archbishop; that desolate heart of 



the Champagne battle-field, where General 
Gouraud, with the American Army on his right, 
made his September push towards Vouziers 
and Mezieres; General Pershing in his office, 
and General Pershing en petit comite in a friend's 
drawing-room, in both settings the same at- 
tractive figure, with the same sudden half- 
mischievous smile and the same observant 
eyes; and, finally, that rabbit-warren of small, 
barely furnished rooms in the old Ecole Mili- 
taire at Montreuil, where the British General 
Staff worked during the war, when it was not 
moving in its staff train up and down behind 
the front. 

But I do not intend to make these letters a 
mere omnium gatherum of recollections. All 
through, my object has been to lay hold of the 
main outline of what has happened on the 
Western front during the past eleven months, 
and if I could, to make them clear to other 
civilians, men and women, as clearly and 
rapidly as possible, in this interval between 
the regime of communiques and war-corre- 
spondence under which we have lived so long, 
and those detailed and scientific histories 
which every Army, and probably every corps 
and division, is now either writing, or pre- 
paring to write, about its own doings in the 


war. Meanwhile the official reports drawn 
up by each Army under the British Command 
are "secret documents." The artillery dis- 
positions of the great battles which brought 
the war to an end cannot yet be disclosed. 
There can, therefore, be no proper maps of 
these battles for some time to come, while 
some of the latest developments in offensive 
warfare which were to have been launched 
upon the enemy had the war continued, are 
naturally not for the public for a good while 
ahead. And considering that, year by year, 
we are still discussing and investigating the 
battles of a hundred years ago — (look for in- 
stance at the lists of recent books on the 
Napoleonic campaigns in the Cambridge Mod- 
dern History !) — we may guess at the time 
mankind will take hereafter in writing about 
and elucidating a war, where in many of the 
great actions, as a Staff Officer remarked to 
me, a Waterloo might have been lost without 
being missed, or won without being more than 
a favourable incident in an otherwise perhaps 
unfavourable whole. 

At the same time, this generation has got 
somehow — as an ingredient in its daily Ufe — 
to form as clear a mental picture as it can of 
the war as a whole, and especially just now of 


its closing months in France. For the history 
of those last months is at the present moment 
an active agent in the European situation. 
What one may call the war-consciousness of 
France, with the first battle of the Marne, 
glorious Verdun, the Champagne battle-field, 
the victorious leadership of Marshal Foch, on 
the one hand — ^her hideous losses in men, her 
incalculable loss in material and stored-up 
wealth, and her stern claim for adequate pro- 
tection in future, on the other, as its main 
elements; the war-consciousness of Great 
Britain and the Empire, turning essentially 
on the immortal defence of the Ypres salient 
and the Channel ports, the huge sacrifices of 
the Somme, the successes and disappointments 
of 1917, the great defensive battle of last 
March, and the immediate and brilliant re- 
action, leading in less than five months to the 
beginning of that series of great actions on 
the British front which finished the war — all 
interpenetrated with the sense of perpetual 
growth in efficiency and power; and finally, 
the American war-consciousness, as it emerged 
from the war, with its crusading impulse in- 
tact, its sense of boundless resources, and its 
ever-fresh astonishment at the irrevocable 
part America was now called on to play in 


European affairs: — amid these three great and 
sometimes clashing currents, the visitor to 
France Hved and moved in the early weeks of 
the year. And then, of course, there was the 
Belgian war-consciousness — ^a new thing for 
Belgium and for Europe. But with that I 
was not concerned. 

Let me try to show by an illustration or 
two drawn from my own recent experience 
what the British war-consciousness means. 

It was a beautiful January day when we 
started from the little inn at Cassel for Ypres, 
Menin, Lille, Lens, and Vimy. From the 
wonderful window at the back of the inn, high 
perched as Cassel is above a wide plain, one 
looked back upon the roads to St. Omer and 
the south, and thought of the days last April, 
when squadron after squadron of French 
cavalry came riding hot and fast along them to 
the relief of our hard-pressed troops, after the 
break of the Portuguese sector of the line at 
Richebourg St. Vaast. But our way lay north, 
not south, through a district that seemed 
strangely familiar to me, though In fact I had 
only passed forty-eight hours in it, in 1916. 
Forty-eight hours, however, in the war-zone, 
at a time of active fighting, and that long 
before any other person of my sex had been 


allowed to approach the actual firing-line on 
the British front, were not like other hours; 
and, perhaps, from much thinking of them, 
the Salient and the approaches to it, as I saw 
them in 1916 from the Scherpenberg hill, had 
become a constant image in the mind. Only, 
instead of seeing Ypres from the shelter of the 
Scherpenberg Windmill, as a distant phantom 
in the horizon mists, beyond the shell-bursts 
in the battle-field below us, we were now to go 
through Ypres itself, then wholly forbidden 
ground, and out beyond it into some of the 
ever-famous battle-fields that lie north and 
south of the Ypres-Menin road. 

One hears much talk in Paris of the multi- 
tudes who will come to see the great scenes of 
the war, as soon as peace is signed, when the 
railways are in a better state, and the food 
problems less, if not solved. The multitudes 
indeed have every right to come, for it is 
nations, not standing armies, that have won 
this war. But, personally, one may be glad 
to have seen these sacred places again, during 
this intermediate period of utter solitude and 
desolation, when their very loneliness "makes 
deep silence in the heart — for thought to do 
its part." The roads in January were clear, 
and the Army gone. The only visitors were 


a few military cars, and men of the salvage 
corps, directing German prisoners in the gather- 
ing up of live shells and hand-grenades, of 
tons of barbed wire and trip wire, and all the 
other debris of battle that still lie thick upon 
the ground. In a few months perhaps there 
will be official guides conducting parties 
through the ruins, and in a year or two, the 
ruins of Ypres themselves may have given 
place to the rising streets of a new city. As 
they now are, a strange and sinister majesty 
surrounds them. At the entrance to the town 
there still hangs the notice: ''Troops are not 
to enter Ypres except on special duty"; and 
the grass-grown heaps of masonry are labelled: 
"It is dangerous to dig among these ruins." 
But there was no one digging when we were 
there — ^no one moving, except ourselves. Ypres 
seemed to me beyond recovery as a town, 
just as Lens is; but whereas Lens is just a 
shapeless ugliness which men will clear away 
rejoicing as soon as their energies are free for 
rebuilding, Ypres in ruin has still beauty 
enough and dignity enough to serve — with the 
citadel at Verdun — as the twin symbol of the 
war. There was a cloud of jackdaws circling 
round the great gashed tower where the inner 
handiwork of the fifteenth-century builders 


lay open to sky and sun. I watched them 
against the blue, gathering in, also, the few 
details of lovely work that still remain here 
and there on the face of what was once the 
splendid Cloth Hall, the glory of these border 
lands. And one tried to imagine how men 
and women would stand there a hundred years 
hence, amid what developments of this strange 
new world that the war has brought upon us, 
and with what thoughts. 

Beyond, we were in the wide, shell-pocked 
waste of the huge battle-field, with many signs 
on its scarred face of the latest fighting of all, 
the flooding back of the German tide in last 
April over these places which it had cost us 
our best lives to gain, and of the final victori- 
ous advance of King Albert and the British 
Second Army which sent the Germans flying 
back through Limburg to their own land. 
Beside us, the inniunerable, water-logged shell- 
holes, in which, at one time or another in the 
swaying forward and backward of the fight, 
the lives of brave men have been so piteously 
lost, strangled in mud and ooze; here a mere 
sign-post which tells you where Hooge stood; 
there the stumps that mark Sanctuary Wood 
and Polygon Wood, and another sign-post 
which bears the ever-famous name of Ghelu- 


velt. In the south-eastern distance rises the 
spire of Menin church. And this is the Menin 
Road, How it haunted the war news for 
months and years, hke a blood-stained pres- 
ence ! While to the south-east, I make out 
Kemmel, Scherpenberg, and the Mont des 
Cats and in the far north-west a faint Une with 
a few trees on it — Passchendaele! 

Passchendaele ! — ^name of sorrow and of 
glory. What were the British losses, in that 
three months' fighting from June to Novem- 
ber, 1917, which has been called the "Third 
Battle of Ypres," which began with the vic- 
tory of the Messines ridge and culminated in 
the Canadian capture of Passchendaele?* 
Outside the inner circle of those who know, 
there are many figures given. They are alike 
only in this that they seem to grow per- 
petually. Heroic, heart-breaking wrestle with 
the old hostile forces of earth and water — 
black earth and creeping water and strangling 
mud ! We won the ridge and we held it till 
the German advance in April last forced our 
temporary withdrawal; we had pushed the 
Germans off the high ground into the marsh 
lands beyond; but we failed, as everyone 

* Mr. Bonar Law has stated in the House of Commons since these 
lines were written that the losses in the third battle of Ypres, from 
Messines to Passchendaele, July — October, 1917, were 228,000. 


knows, in the real strategic objects of the 
attack, and the losses in the autumn advance 
on Passchendaele were an important and un- 
toward factor in the spring fighting of 1918. 

How deeply this Ypres salient enters into 
the war-consciousness of Britain and the Em- 
pire! As I stand looking over the black 
stretches of riddled earth, at the half-demol- 
ished pill-boxes in front, at the muddy pools 
in the shell-holes under a now darkening sky; 
at the flat stretches between us and Kemmel 
where lie Zillebeke and St. Eloi, and a score 
of other names which will be in the mouth of 
history hundreds of years hence, no less cer- 
tainly than the names of those little villages 
north and south of Thermopylae, which saw 
the advance of the Persians and the vigil of 
the Greeks — a confusion of things read and 
heard, rush through one's mind, taking new 
form and vividness from this actual scene in 
which they happened. There, at those cross 
roads, broke the charge of the Worcesters, on 
that most critical day of all in the First Battle 
of Ypres, when the fate of the Allies hung on 
a thread, and this "homely English regiment," 
with its famous record in the Peninsula and 
elsewhere, drove back the German advance 
and saved the line. I turn a little to the south 


and I am looking towards Klein Zillebeke 
where the Household Cavalry charged, and 
Major Hugh Dawnay at their head "saved 
the British position," and lost his own gallant 
life. Straight ahead of us, down the Menin 
road towards Gheluvelt, came the Prussian 
Guards, the Emperor's own troops with their 
master's eye on them, on November 11th, 
when the First Division in General Haig's 
First Corps, checked them, enfiladed them, 
mowed them down, till the flower of the Im- 
perial troops fell back in defeat, never know- 
ing by how small a fraction they had missed 
victory, how thin a line had held them, how 
little stood between them and the ports that 
fed the British Army. Here on these flats 
to my right were Lord Cavan's Guards, and 
on either side of him General AUenby's cavalry, 
and General Byng's; while, if one turns to the 
north towards the distance which hides Son- 
nebeke and Bixschoote, one is looking over the 
ground so magnificently held on our extreme 
left by General Dubois and his 9th French 

Guards, Yorkshires, Lancashires, London 
Scottish, Worcesters, Royal Scots Fusiliers, 
Highlanders, Gordons, Leicesters — all the fa- 
miliar names of the old Army are likend with 


this great story. It was an English and Scotch 
victory, the victory of these Islands, won 
before the "rally of the Empire" had time to 
develop, before a single Canadian or Aus- 
tralian soldier had landed in France. 

But that is only the first, though in some 
ways the greatest, chapter in this blood- 
stained book. Memory runs on nearly six 
months, and we come to that awful April 
afternoon, when the French line broke under 
the first German gas attack, and the Cana- 
dians on their right held on through two days 
and nights, gassed and shelled, suffering fright- 
ful casualties, but never yielding, till the line 
was safe, and fresh troops had come up. It 
was not six weeks since at Neuve Chapelle 
the Canadians had for the first time, while 
not called on to take much active part them- 
selves, seeti the realities of European battle; 
and the cheers of the British troops at Ypres 
as the exhausted Dominion troops came back 
from the trenches will live in history. 

Messines, and the victory of June, 1917 — 
Passchendaele, and the losses of that grim 
winter — all the points indeed of this dim 
horizon from north-west to south-east have 
their imperishable meaning for Great Britain 
and the Dominions. For quite apart from the 


main actions which stand out, fighting and 
death never ceased in the Ypres sahent. 

Then, as the great Army of the gallant dead 
seemed to gather round one on this famous 
road, and over these shell-torn flats, a sudden 
recollection of a letter which I received in 
August, 1918, brought a tightening of the 
throat. A Canadian lady, writing from an 
American camp in the east of France, appealed 
to myself and other writers to do something 
to bring home to the popular mind of America 
a truer knowledge of what the British Armies 
had done in the war. "I see here," says the 
writer, "hundreds of the finest remaining 
white men on earth every week. They are 
wonderful miHtary material, and very attrac- 
tive and lovable boys. But it discourages all 
one's hope for the future unity and friendship 
between us all to realise as I have done the 
last few months that the majority of these 
men are entering the fight, firmly believing 
that 'England has not done her share — that 
France had done it all — ^the Colonials have 
done all the hard fighting, etc.'" And she 
proceeds to attribute the state of things to the 
"behttling reports" of England's share in the 
war given in the newspapers which reach these 
splendid men" from home. 



A similar statement has come to me within 
the last few days, in another letter from an 
English lady in an American camp near Verdun, 
who speaks of the tragic ignorance — ^for trag- 
ic it is when one thinks of all that depends on 
Anglo-American understanding in the future ! 
— shown by the young Americans in the camp 
where she is at work, of the share of Great 
Britain in the war. 

Alack! How can we bring our two nations 
closer together in this vital matter ? Of course 
there is no belittlement of the British part in 
the war among those Americans who have been 
brought into any close contact with it. And 
in my small efforts to meet the state of things 
described in the letters I have quoted, some of 
the warmest and most practical sympathy 
shown has come from Americans. But in the 
vast population of the United States with its 
mixed elements, some of them inevitably hos- 
tile to this country, how easy for the currents 
of information and opinion to go astray over 
large tracts of country at any rate, and at the 
suggestion of an anti-British press ! 

The only effective remedy, it seems to me, 
would be the remedy of eyes and ears ! Would 
it not be well, before the whole of the great 
American Army goes home, that as many as 


possible of those still in France — groups, say, 
of non-commissioned oflScers from various 
American divisions, representing both the 
older and the newer levies, and drawn from 
different local areas — should be given the op- 
portunity of seeing and studying the older 
scenes of the war on the British front? — and 
that our own men, also, should be able to see 
for themselves, not only the scenes of the 
American fighting of last year, but the vast 
preparations of all kinds that America was 
building up in France for the further war 
that might have been; preparations which, 
as no one doubts, changed the whole atmos- 
phere of the struggle? 


England has not done her share T^ 

How many thousands of British dead — ^men 
from every county in England and Scotland, 
from loyal Ireland, from every British do- 
minion and colony — lie within the circuit of 
these blood-stained hills of Ypres ? How many 
more in the Somme graveyards? — ^round Lens 
and Arras and Vimy? — about Bourlon Wood 
and Cambrai? — or in the final track of our 
victorious Armies breaking through the Hin- 
denburg line on their way to Mons? Glori- 


ously indeed have the Dominions played their 
part in this war; but of all the casualties suf- 
fered by the Armies of the Empire, 80 "per 
cent, of them fell on the population of these 
islands. America was in the great struggle 
for a year and a half, and in the real fighting- 
line for about six months. She has lost some 
54,000 of her gallant sons; and we sorrow for 
them with her. 

But through four long years scarcely a fam- 
ily in Great Britain and the Dominions that 
possessed men on the fighting fronts — and 
none were finally exempt except on medical 
or industrial grounds — ^but was either in 
mourning for, or in constant fear of death for 
one or more of its male members, whether by 
bullet, shell-fire or bomb, or must witness the 
return to them of husbands, brothers, and sons, 
more or less injured for life. The total Ameri- 
can casualties are 264,000. The total British 
casualties — among them from 700,000 to 800,- 
000 dead— are 2,228,000 out of a total white 
population for the Empire of not much more 
than two-thirds of the population of the United 
States. There is small room for ^'belittling" 
here. A silent clasp of the hands between our 
two nations would seem to be the natural 
gesture in face of such facts as these. 



Such thoughts, however, belong to the emo- 
tional or tragic elements in the British war- 
consciousness. Let me turn to others of a 
different kind — the intellectual and reflective 
elements — and the changing estimates which 
they bring about. 

Take for instance what we have been ac- 
customed to call the "March retreat" of last 
year. The dispatch of Sir Douglas Haig de- 
scribing the actions of March and April last 
year was so headed in the Times, though 
nothing of the kind appears in the official 
pubHcation. And we can all remember in 
England the gnawing anxiety of every day 
and every hour from March 21st up to the end 
of April, when the German offensive had beaten 
itself out, on the British front at least, and the 
rushing over of the British reinforcements, 
together with the rapid incoming of the Ameri- 
cans, had given the British Army the breath- 
ing space of which three months later it made 
the use we know. 

"But why," asks one of the men best quali- 
fied to speak in our Army — "why use the words 
'retreat' and disaster' at all?" They were 
indeed commonly used at the time both in 


England and abroad, and have been often 
used since about the fighting of the British 
Army last March and April. Strictly speak- 
ing, my interlocutor suggests, neither word is 
applicable. The British Army indeed fell 
back some thirty-five miles on its southern 
front, till the German attack was finally stayed 
before Amiens. The British centre stood firm 
from Arras to Bethune. But in the north we 
had to yield almost all the ground gained in 
the Salient the year before, and some that had 
never yet been in German hands. We lost 
heavily in men and guns, and a shudder of 
alarm ran through all the Allied countries. 

Nevertheless what Europe was then wit- 
nessing — I am of course quoting not any 
opinion of my own, to which I have no right, 
but what I have gathered from those respon- 
sible men who were in the forefront of the 
fighting — was in truth a great defensive battle, 
long and anxiously foreseen, in which the 
German forces were double the British forces 
opposed to them (64 to 32 divisions — 73 to 32 
— and so on), while none the less all that was 
vitally necessary to the Allied cause was finally 
achieved by the British Army, against these 
huge odds. Germany, in fact, made her last 
desperate effort a year ago to break through 


the beleaguering British forces, and failed. 
On our side there was no real surprise, though 
our withdrawal was deeper and our losses 
greater than had been foreseen. The troops 
themselves may have been confident; it is 
the habit of gallant men. But the British 
command knew well what it had to face, and 
had considered carefully weeks beforehand 
where ground could be given — as in all proba- 
bility it would have to be given — ^with the 
least disadvantage. Some accidents, if one 
may call them so, indeed there were — the thick 
white fog, for instance, which "on the morn- 
ing of March 21st enveloped our outpost line, 
and made it impossible to see more than fifty 
yards in any direction, so that the machine 
guns and forward field-guns which had been 
disposed so as to cover this zone with their 
fire were robbed almost entirely of their effect 
— and the masses of German infantry advanced 
comparatively unharassed, so closely support- 
ing each other that loss of direction was impos- 
sible." Hence the rapidity of the German 
advance through the front lines on March 
21st, and the alarming break-through south 
of St. Quentin, where our recently extended 
line was weakest and newest. A second acci- 
dent was the drying up of the Oise Marshes 


at a time when in a normal year they might 
have been reckoned on to stop the enemy's 
advance. A third piece of ill-luck was the 
fact that in the newest section of the British 
line, where the enemy attack broke at its 
hottest, there had been no time, since it had 
been given over to us by the French — who 
had held it lightly, as a quiet sector, during 
the winter — to strengthen its defences, and to 
do the endless digging, the railway construc- 
tion, and the repair of roads, which might have 
made a very great difference. And, finally, 
there was the most dangerous accident of all 
— the break through of the Portuguese line 
at Richebourg St. Vaast, just as the tired 
division holding it was about to be relieved. 
Of that accident, as we all remember, the 
enemy, hungry for the Channel ports, made 
his very worst and most; till the French and 
British fought him to a final stand before 
Hazebrouck and Ypres. 

Meanwhile, the strategic insight of Marshal 
Foch, who assumed complete control of the 
Allied Armies in France and Belgium on 
March 26th, combined with the experienced 
and cool-headed leadership of the British Com- 
mander-in-Chief, refused to dissipate the 
French reserves, so important to the future 


course of the war, in any small or piecemeal 
reinforcement of the British lines. The risks 
of the great moment had to be taken, and both 
the French and British Commanders had com- 
plete faith in the capacity of the British Army 
to meet them. And when all is said, when 
our grave losses in casualties, prisoners, and 
guns are fully admitted, what was the general 
result ? The Germans had failed to gain either 
of their real objectives: — either the Channel 
ports, or the division of the British Armies 
from the French. They wore themselves out 
against a line which recoiled indeed but never 
broke, and was all the time filling up and 
strengthening from behind. The losses in- 
flicted on their immense reserves reacted on 
all the subsequent fighting of the year, both on 
the Aisne and the Marne. And when the 
British Armies had brought the huge attack 
to a standstill — which for the centre and south 
of our line had been already attained ten days 
after the storm broke — and knew the worst 
that had happened or could happen to them; 
when the Australians had recaptured Villers- 
Bretonneux; when the weeks passed and the 
offensive ceased; when all gaps in our ranks 
were filled by the rush of reinforcements from 
home, and the American Army poured steadily 


across the Atlantic, the tension and peril of 
the spring passed steadily into the confident 
strength and expectation of the summer. 
The British Army had held against an attack 
which could never be repeated, and the future 
was with the Allies. 

Let us remember that at no time in our 
fighting withdrawal, either on the Somme or 
on the Lys, was there "anything approaching 
a break-down of command, or a failure in 
morale." So the Field Marshal. On the other 
hand, all over the vast battle-field — in every 
part of the hard "waiting game" which for a 
time the British Armies were called to play, 
men did the most impossible and heroic things. 
Gun detachments held their posts till every 
man was killed or wounded; infantry who had 
neither rest nor sleep for days together, fought 
"back to back in the trenches, shooting both 
to front and rear." Occasional confusion, 
even local panic, occasional loss of communi- 
cation and misunderstanding of orders, occa- 
sional incompetence and stupidity there must 
be in such a vast backward sweep of battle, 
but skill, purpose, superb bravery were never 
lacking in any portion of the field; and the 
German communiques exultantly announcing 
the "total defeat of the British Armies" may 


be compared, mutatis mutandis, with the re- 
ports from German Headquarters just before 
the first battle of the Marne. 

"The defeat of the English is complete," 
said the German High Command in the latter 
days of August, 1914. "The English Army is 
retreating in the most complete disorder. . . . 
The British have been completely defeated to 
the north of St. Quentin" — and so on. And 
yet a week later, as General Maurice, with 
much fresh evidence, has lately shown, the 
Army thus disposed of on paper had rejoicingly 
turned upon von Kluck, and was playing a 
vital part in the great victory of the Marne. 
So last spring, the losses and withdrawals of 
a vaster defensive action, coupled with the 
stubborn and tenacious hold of the British 
Army, last March and April, were the inevita- 
ble and heroic prelude to the victorious recoil 
of August, and the final battles of the war. 
Inevitable, because no forethought or exertion 
on the British side could have averted the 
German onslaught, determined as it was by 
the breakdown of the whole Eastern front of 
the war, and the letting loose upon the Western 
front of immense forces previously held by 
the Russian armies. These forces, after the 
Russian debacle^ were released against us, 


week by week, till in March the balance of 
numbers, which was almost even in January, 
had risen on the German side to a superiority 
of 150,000 bayonets ! The dispatch of divisions 
to Italy; the recall of men to the shipyards 
and the mines to meet the submarine danger; 
the heavy fighting in the Salient and at Cam- 
brai in the latter half of 1917; the lack of time 
for training new levies, owing to our depleted 
line and reserves: — all these causes contribv 
uted to sharpen the peril in which England 
stood.* But it is in such straits as these that 
our race shows its quality. 

And in this fighting, for the first time in 
British history, and in the history of Europe, 
Americans stood side by side in battle with 
British and French. "In the battle of March 
and April," says Sir Douglas Haig, "American 
and British troops have fought shoulder to 
shoulder in the same trenches, and have shared 
together in the satisfaction of beating off Ger- 
man attacks. All ranks of the British Army 
look forward to the day when the rapidly 
growing strength of the American Army will 
allow American and British soldiers to co- 
operate in offensive action,^' 

That day came without much delay. It 

* See the Chart at end of Book. 


carried the British Army to Mons, and the 
young American Army to Sedan. 

Looking out from the Vimy Ridge six 
weeks ago, and driving thence through Arras 
across the Drocourt-Queant Hne to Douai and 
Valenciennes, I was in the very heart of that 
triumphant stand of the Third and First Armies 
round Arras which really determined the fate 
of the German attack. 

The Vimy Ridge from the west is a stiffish 
climb. On the east also it drops steeply above 
Petit Vimy and Vimy, while on the south and 
south-east it rises so imperceptibly from the 
Arras road that the legend which describes 
the Commander-in-Chief, approaching it from 
that side, as asking of the oflBcers assembled to 
meet him after the victory — "And where is 
this ridge that you say you have taken?" 
seems almost a reasonable tale. But to east 
and west there is no doubt about it. One 
climbs up the side overlooking Ablain St. Na- 
zaire through shell-holes and blurred trenches, 
over snags of wire, and round the edges of 
craters, till on the top one takes breath on 
the wide plateau where stands the Canadian 
monument to those who fell in the glorious 
fight of April 9th, 1917, and whence the eye 


sweeps that wide northern and eastern plain, 
towards Lille on the one side and Douai on 
the other, which to our war-beaten and weary- 
soldiers, looking out upon it when the ridge 
at last was theirs, was almost as new and 
strange a world as the Pacific was to its first 
European beholders. 

Westwards across the valley whence our 
troops stormed the hill, rises the Bouvigny 
Wood, and the long, blood-stained ridge of 
Notre Dame de Lorette, where I stood just 
before the battle, in 1917. To the north we 
are looking through the horizon shadows to 
La Bassee, Bailleul, and the Salient. Immedi- 
ately below the hill, in the same direction, lie 
the ruin heaps of Lens, and of the mining towns 
surrounding it; while behind us the ground 
slopes south and south-east to Arras and the 

It is a tremendous position. That even the 
merest outsider can see. In old days the hill 
must have been a pleasant rambling ground 
for the tired workers of the coal-mining dis- 
tricts. Then the war-blast at its fiercest 
passed over it. To-day in its renewed soli- 
tude, its sacred peace, it represents one of the 
master points of the war, bought and held by 
a sacrifice of life and youth, the thought of 



which holds one's heart in grip, as one stands 
there, trying to gather in the meaning of the 
scene. Not one short year ago it was in the 
very centre of the struggle. If Arras and Vimy 
had not held, things would have been grave 
indeed. Had they been captured, says the 
official report of the Third Army, *'our main 
lateral communications — Amiens — DouUens — 
St. Pol — St. Omer — would have been seri- 
ously threatened if not cut." The Germans 
were determined to have them, and they 
fought for them with a desperate courage. 
Three assault divisions were to have carried 
the Vimy Ridge, while other divisions were to 
have captured Arras and the line of the Scarpe. 
The attack was carried out with the greatest 
fierceness, men marching shoulder to shoulder 
into the furnace of battle. But this time there 
was no fog to shield them, or to blind the 
British guns. The enemy losses were appalling, 
and after one day's fighting, in spite of the 
more northerly attacks on our line still to 
come, the German hopes of victory were in the 
dust, and — as we now know — for ever. 

That is what Vimy means — what Arras 
means — in the fighting of last year. We pon- 
der it as we drive through the wrecked beauty 
of Arras and out on to the Douai road on our 


way to Valenciennes. We passed slowly along 
the road to the east of Arras, honeycombed 
still with dug-outs, and gun emplacements, 
and past trenches and wire fields, till suddenly 
a mere sign-board, nothing more — '^Gavrelle !" 
— shows us that we are approaching the famous 
Drocourt-Queant switch of the Hindenburg 
line, which the Canadians and the 17th Brit- 
ish Corps, under Sir Henry Home, stormed 
and took in September of last year. Pres- 
ently, on either side of the road as we drive 
slowly eastward, a wilderness of trenches runs 
north and south. With what confident hope 
the Germans dug and fortified and elaborated 
them years ago ! — with what contempt of 
death and danger our men carried them not 
six months since ! And now not a sign of life 
anywhere — nothing but groups of white crosses 
here and there, emerging from the falling 
dusk, and the debris of battle along the road. 

A weary way to Douai, over the worst road 
we have struck yet, and a weary way beyond 
it to Denain and Valenciennes. Darkness 
falls and hides the monotonous scene of ruin, 
which indeed begins to change as we approach 
Valenciennes, the Headquarters of the First 
Army, And at last, a bright fire in an old 
room piled with books and papers, a 


welcoming from the officer reigning over it, 
and the pleasant careworn face of an elderly- 
lady with whom we are billeted. 

Best of all, a message from the Army Com- 
mander, Sir Henry Home, with whom we had 
made friends in 1917, just before the capture 
of the Vimy Ridge, in which the First Army 
played so brilliant a part. 

We hastily change our travel gear, a car 
comes for us, and soon we find ourselves at 
the General's table in the midst of an easy 
flow of pleasant talk. 

What is it that makes the special charm of 
the distinguished soldier, as compared with 
other distinguished men.f^ 

Simplicity, I suppose, and truth. The reali- 
ties of war leave small room for any kind of 
pose. A high degree, also, of personal stoicism 
easily felt but not obtruded; and towards 
weak and small things — ^women and children 
— a natural softness and tenderness of feeling, 
as though a man who has upon him such stern 
responsibilities of life and death must needs 
grasp at their opposites, when and how he 
can; keen intelligence, Men entendu^ modesty, 
courtesy; a habit of brevity; a boy's love of 
fun: with some such list of characteristics I 
find myself trying to answer my own question. 


They are at least conspicuous in many leaders 
of the Allied Armies. 

''Why don't you boom your Generals?" said 
an American diplomatist to me some eight 
months ago. "Your public at home knows far 
too little about them individually. But the 
personal popularity of the military leader in 
such a national war as this is a military asset." 

I believe I entirely agree with the speaker ! 
But it is not the British military way, and the 
unwritten laws of the Service stand firm. So 
let me only remind you that General Home 
led the artillery at Mons; that he has com- 
manded the First Army since September, 1916; 
that, in conjunction with Sir Julian Byng, he 
carried the Vimy Ridge in 1917, and held the 
left at Arras in 1918; and, finally, that he was 
the northernmost of the three Army Com- 
manders who stormed the Hindenburg line 
last September. 

It was in his study and listening to the ex- 
planations he gave me, so clearly and kindly, 
of the Staff maps that lay before us, that I 
first realised with anything Hke suflScient 
sharpness the meaning of those words we have 
all repeated so often without understanding 
them — ''the capture of the Hindenburg line.^^ 

What was the Hindenburg line ? 



We left Valenciennes on the morning of 
January 12th. By great luck, an officer from 
the First Army, who knew every inch of the 
ground to be traversed, was with us, in addi- 
tion to the officer from G.H.Q., who, as is 
always the case with Army visitors, accom- 
panied us most courteously and efficiently 
throughout. Captain X took us by a by-road 
through the district south of Valenciennes, 
where in October last year our troops were 
fighting a war of movement, in open country, 
on two fronts — to the north and to the east. 
There were no trenches in the desolate fields 
we passed through, but many shell-holes, and 
the banks of every road were honeycombed 
with shelters, dug-outs and gun-emplacements, 
rough defences that as the German Army re- 
treated our men had taken over and altered 
to their own needs; while to the west lay the 
valley of the Sensee with its marshes, the scene 
of some of the most critical fighting of the 



From the wrecked centre of Cambrai a 
short run over field roads takes you to the 
high ground north-west of the city which wit- 
nessed some of the fiercest fighting of last 
autumn. I still see the jagged ruins of the 
little village of Abancourt — totally destroyed 
in two days' bombardment — standing sharp 
against the sky, on a ridge which looks over 
the Sensee valley; the shell-broken road in 
which the car — ^most complaisant of cars and 
most skilful of drivers ! — ^finally stuck; and 
those hastily dug shelters on the road-side in 
one of which I suddenly noticed a soldier's 
coat and water-bottle lying just as they had 
been left two months before. There were no 
terrible sights now in these lonely fields as 
there were then, but occasionally, as with this 
coat, the refuse of battle took one back to the 
living presences that once filled these roads — 
the meriy to whom Marshal Haig expresses 
the gratitude of a great Commander in many 
a simple yet moving passage of his last dis- 

And every step beyond Cambrai, desolate 
as it is, is thronged with these invisible legions. 
There to our right rises the long line of Bour- 
lon Wood — here are the sand-pits at its foot 
— -and there are the ruined fragments of 


Fontaine-notre-Dame. There rushes over one 
again the exultation and the bitter recoil of 
those London days in November, 1917, when 
the news of the Cambrai battle came in; the 
glorious surprise of the tanks; the triumphant 
progress of Sir Julian Byng; the evening papers 
with their telegrams, and those tragic joy-bells 
that began to ring; and then the flowing back 
of the German wave; the British withdrawal 
from that high wood yonder which had cost 
so much to win, and from much else; the be- 
wilderment and disappointment at home. A 
tired Army, and an attack pushed too far ? — 
is that the summing up of the first battle of 
Cambrai? A sudden gleam had shone on 
that dark autumn which had seen the bitter 
victory and the appalling losses of Passchen- 
daele, and then the gleam vanished, and the 
winter closed in, and there was nothing for 
the British Army but to turn its steady mind 
to the Russian break-down and to the ever- 
growing certainty of a German attack, fiercer 
and more formidable than had ever yet broken 
on the Allies. 

Bourlon Wood — ^famous name! — ^fades be- 
hind us. A few rubbish heaps beside the road 
tell of former farms and factories. The car 


descends a long slope, and then, suddenly, 
before us runs the great dry trough of the 
Canal du Nord; in front, a ruined bridge, 
with a temporary one beside it, a ruined lock 
on the left, and rising ground beyond. We 
cross the bridge, mount a short way on the 
western slope, then in the darkening afternoon 
we walk along the front trench of the Hin- 
denburg line, north and south of the road — a 
superb trench, the finest I have yet seen, dug 
right down into the rock, with concrete head- 
quarters, dressing and signal stations, machine- 
gun emplacements and observation posts; and, 
in front of it, great fields of wire, through 
which wide lanes have been flattened down. 
Now we have turned eastward, and we stand 
and gaze towards Cambrai, over the road we 
have come. The huge trench is before us, 
the waterless canal with its steep banks lies 
beyond, and on the further hill-side, trench 
beyond trench, as far as the eye can see, the 
lines still fairly clear, though in some places 
broken up and confused by bombardment. 
The officer beside me draws my attention to 
some marks on the ground near me — the track 
marks of two tanks as plain almost as when 
they were made. One of them, after flatten- 
ing a wide passage through the wire fields for 


the advance of the infantry, had clambered 
across the trench. At our feet were the grooved 
marks of the descent, and we could follow them 
through the incredible rise on the further side; 
after which the protected monster — of much 
lighter build, however, than his predecessors 
on the Somme — seemed to have run north 
and south along the trench, silencing the deadly 
patter of the machine guns; while its fellow 
on the west side, according to its tracks at 
least, had also turned south, for the same 

The Hindenburg line ! — and the two tanks ! 
The combination, indeed, suggests the whole 
story of that final campaign in which the Brit- 
ish Army, as the leading unit in a combina- 
tion of armies brilliantly led by a French 
Generalissimo whom all trusted, brought down 
the military power of Germany. There were 
some six weeks of fighting after the capture 
of the Hindenburg line; but it was that cap- 
ture — "the essential part" of the whole cam- 
paign, to use Marshal Haig's words — to which 
everything else was subordinate, which, in 
truth, decided the struggle. And the tanks 
are the symbol at once of the general strategy 
and the new tactics, by which Marshal Foch 
and Sir Douglas Haig, working together as 


only great men can, brought about this re- 
sult, bettered all that they had learned from 
Germany, and proved themselves the master 
minds of the war. For the tanks mean sur- 
prise — mobility — the power to break off any 
action when it has done its part, and rapidly 
to transfer the attack somewhere else. Be- 
hind them, indeed, stood all the immense 
resources of the British artillery — guns of all 
calibres, so numerous that in many a great 
attack they stood wheel to wheel in a con- 
tinuous arc of fire. But it was the tanks 
which cleared the way, which flattened the 
wire, and beat down the skill and courage of 
the German machine gunners, who have taken 
such deadly toll of British life during the war. 
And behind the tanks, protected also by that 
creeping barrage of the great guns, which was 
the actual invention of that famous Army 
Commander with whom I had spent an even- 
ing at Valenciennes, came the infantry lines, 
those now seasoned and victorious troops, for 
whose "stubborn greatness in defence," no 
less than their "persistent vigour" and "re- 
lentless determination" in attack. General 
Haig finds words that every now and then, 
though very rarely, betray the emotion of the 
great leader who knows that he has been well 


and loyally served. There is even a certain 
jealousy of the tanks, I notice, among the men 
who form the High Command of the Army, 
lest they should in any way detract from the 
credit of the men. "Oh, the tanks — ^yes — 
very useful, of course — but the men! — it was 
the quality of the infantry did it." 

All the same, the tanks — or rather these tell- 
tale marks beside this front trench of the 
Hindenburg line, together with that labyrinth 
of trenches, cut by the Canal du Nord, which 
fills the whole eastern scene to the horizon — 
remain in my mind as somehow representative 
of the two main facts which, according to all 
one can read and all one can gather from the 
living voices of those who know, dominated 
the last stage of the war. 

For what are those facts? 

First, the combination in battle after battle, 
on the British front, of the strategical genius, 
at once subtle and simple, of Marshal Foch, 
with the supreme tactical skill of the British 

Secondly, the decisive importance to the 
ultimate issue, of this great fortified zone of 
country lying before my eyes in the winter 
twilight; which stretches, as my map tells 
me, right across Northern France, from the 


Ypres salient, in front of Lille and Douai, 
through this point south-west of Cambrai 
where I am standing, and again over those 
distant slopes to the south-west over which 
the shades are gathering, to St. Quentin and 
St. Gobain. These miles of half-efifaced and 
abandoned trenches, with all those scores of 
other miles to the north-west and the south-east 
which the horizon covers, represent, as I have 
said, the culminating effort of the war; the 
last effective stand of the German brought 
to bay; the last moment when Ares, according 
to Greek imagination, 'Hhe money changer of 
war," who weighs in his vast balance the lives 
of men, still held the balance of this mighty 
struggle in some degree uncertain. But the 
fortress fell; the balance came down on the 
side of the Allies, and from that moment, 
though there was much fighting still to do, the 
war was won. 

As to the actual meaning in detail of the 
^'Hindenburg" or "Siegfried" line, let me, 
for the benefit of those who have never seen 
even a yard of it, come back to the subject 
presently, helped by a captured German docu- 
ment, and by a particularly graphic description 
of it, written by an officer of the First Army. 


But first, with the scene still before me — the 
broken bridge, the ruined lock, the splendid 
trench at my feet, and those innumerable 
white lines on the far hill-side — ^let me recall 
the great story of the six months which pre- 
ceded the attack of Sir Julian Byng's Third 
Army on this bank of the Canal du Nord. 

It was on Monday, March 25th, that at 
DouUens, a small manufacturing town, lying 
in a wooded and stream-fed hollow not far 
from Amiens, there took place the historic 
meeting of the leading politicians and generals 
of the war, which ended in the appointment 
of Marshal Foch to the supreme military com- 
mand of the Allied forces in France. I re- 
member passing DouUens in 1917, dipping 
down into the hollow, climbing out of it again 
on to the wide upland leading to Amiens, and 
idly noticing the picturesqueness of the place. 
But there must be a house and a room in 
DouUens, which ought already to be marked 
as national property, and will certainly be an 
object of travel in years to come for both Eng- 
lish and French; no less than that factory to 
the west of Verdun where Castelnau and 
Petain conferred at the sharpest crisis of the 
immortal siege. For there — so it is generally 
believed — the practical sense and generous 


temper of the British Commander brought 
about that change in the whole condition of 
the war which we know as the ''unity of com- 
mand." Sunday, March 24th, had been a 
particularly bad day in that vast defen- 
sive battle which, in General Haig's phrase, 
"strained the resources of the Allies to the 
uttermost." There had been difficulties and 
misunderstandings also — ^perfectly natural in 
the circumstances — ^with the French Army on 
the right of the British line. Yet never was 
a perfect co-ordination of the whole Allied 
effort in face of the German attack so abso- 
lutely essential. 

Sir Douglas Haig took the lead. A year 
before this date he had refused in other cir- 
cumstances, as one supremely resp isible for 
the British Army, to agree to a unified com- 
mand under a French general, and the events 
had justified him. But now the hour had ar- 
rived, and the man. The proposal that Gen- 
eral Foch should take the suprer le control of 
the four Allied armies now fighting or gathering 
in France was made and pressed b\ Sir Douglas 
Haig. There was anxious debate, some op- 
position in unexpected quarters, and finally a 
unanimous decision. General Foch, waiting 
in an adjoining room, was called in and ac- 


cepted the task with the simpHeity of the 
great soldier who is also a man of religious 
faith. For Foch, the devout Catholic and 
pupil of the Jesuits, and Haig the Presbyterian, 
are alike in this: there rules in both of them 
the conviction that this world is not an aim- 
less scene of chance, and that man has an Un- 
seen Helper. 

Such, at least, is the story as it runs; and, 
at any rate, from that meeting at DouUens 
dates the transformation of the war. For five 
weeks afterwards the German attack beat 
against the British front, bending and denting 
but never creaking it. Then at the end of 
April the attack died down, brought up against 
the British ihd French reserves which Luden- 
dorff had jamensely underrated, and — stra- 
tegically — it had failed. 

A month later came the "violent surprise 
attack" on the Aisne, which, as we all know, 
carried the enc my to the Marne and across it, 
and on the 7tL of June the French were again 
attacked between Noyon and Montdidier. 
The strain waj great. But Foch was making 
his plans; the British Army was being steadily 
reorganised; the drafts from England were 
being absorbed and trained under a Com- 
mander-in-Chief who, by the consent of all 


his subordinates, is a supreme manipulator 
and trainer of fighting men, while never for- 
getting the human reality which is the founda- 
tion of it all. Soon the number of effective 
infantry divisions on the British front had 
risen from forty-five to fifty-two. And mean- 
while American energy was pouring men across 
the Atlantic, and everywhere along the Allied 
front and in the Allied countries, but es- 
pecially in ravaged, war-weary France, the 
news of the weekly arrivals, 80,000, 100,000, 
70,000 men, was exactly the stimulus that the 
older armies needed. 

It was a race between the German Army 
and the growing strength of the Allies — and 
it was presently a duel between Ludendorff 
and Foch. "Attack! attack!" was the Ger- 
man military cry, "or it will be too late!" 
And on July 15th Ludendorff struck again to 
the east and south-west of Rheims. General 
Gouraud, who was in command of the Fourth 
French Army to the east of Rheims, told me 
at Strasbourg the dramatic story of that at- 
tack and of its brilliant and overwhelming 
repulse. I will return to it in a later letter. 
Meanwhile the German Command in the 
Marne salient plunged blindly on, deepening 
the pocket in which his forces were engaged — 
striking for Montmirail, Meaux, and Paris. 


But Foch's hour had come, and on July 18th 
he launched that ever-famous counter-offensive 
on the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry front, which, 
in Sir Douglas Haig's quiet words, "effected a 
complete change in the whole military situa- 

After a moment of bewilderment, attacked 
on both flanks by irresistible forces of French, 
British, and Americans, von Boehm turned to 
escape from the hounds on his track. He 
fought, as we all know, a skilful retreat to the 
Vesle, leaving prisoners and guns all the way, 
and on the Vesle he stood. But the last 
German offensive was done, and Foch was 
already thinking of other prey. 

On the 23rd of July there was another con- 
ference of the military leaders, held under 
other omens, and in a different atmosphere 
from that of March 25th. At that confer- 
ence Foch disclosed his plans and gave each 
army its task. The French and American 
Armies — the American Army now in all men's 
mouths because of its gallant and distinguished 
share in the June and July fighting on the 
Marne — ^were to attack towards Mezieres and 
Metz, while the British Armies struck towards 
St. Quentin and Cambrai — in other words, 
looked onward to the final grapple with the 
"great fortified zone known as the Hinden- 


burg line." So long as Germany held that 
she was undefeated. With that gone she was 
at the mercy of the Allies. 

But much had to be done before the Hin- 
denburg line could be attacked. Foch and 
Haig, with Debeney, Mangin, Gouraud, and 
Pershing in support, played a great arpeggio 
— it is Mr. Buchan's word, and a most graphic 
one — on the linked line of the Allies. On the 
British front four great battles, involving the 
capture of more than 100,000 prisoners and 
hundreds of guns, had to be fought before the 
Hindenburg line was reached. They followed 
each other in quick succession, brilliantly inter- 
calated or supported by advances on the French 
and American fronts, Mangin on the Aisne, 
Gouraud in Champagne, Pershing at St. Mihiel. 

The Battle of Amiens (August 8th-13th), 
fought by the Fourth British Army under 
General Rawlinson, and the First French 
Army under General Debeney, who had been 
placed by Marshal Foch under the British 
command, carried the line of the Allies twelve 
miles forward in a vital sector, liberated 
Amiens and the Paris-Amiens railway, and re- 
sulted in the capture of 22,000 prisoners and 
400 guns, together with the hurried retreat of 
the enemy from wide districts to the south, 


where the French were on his heels. These 
were great days for the Canadian and Aus- 
trahan troops. Four Canadian divisions un- 
der Sir Arthur Currie, on the right of an 
eleven-mile front, four Australian divisions 
under Sir John Monash in the centre, with the 
Third British Corps under General Butler on 
the left, led the splendid advance. The Field 
Marshal in his dispatch speaks of the "bril- 
liant and predominating part" played by the 
two Dominion Corps — the "skill and deter- 
mination of the infantry," the "fine perform- 
ance" of the cavahy. By this victory the 
British Army recovered the initiative it had 
temporarily lost. All was changed. And even 
more striking than the actual gains in ground, 
prisoners, and guns, was the effect upon the 
morale of both German and British troops. 
The Germans could hardly believe their de- 
feat; the British exultantly knew that their 
hour had come. 

In the Battle of Bapaume (August 21st- 
September 1st) the Third and Fourth British 
Armies, twenty-three divisions against thirty- 
five German divisions, drove the enemy from 
one side of the old Somme battle-field to the 
other, recovered all the ground lost in the 
spring, and took 34,000 prisoners and 270 


guns. The enemy's morale was now failing; 
surrenders became frequent, and there were 
many signs of the exhaustion of the German 
reserves. And again, by the turning of his 
line, large tracts of territory were recovered 
almost without fighting. By September 6th, 
five months after we had stood ^'with our 
backs to the wall" in defence of the Channel 
ports, the Lys salient had disappeared, and 
the old Ypres line was almost restored. 

In the Battle of the Scarpe (August 26th- 
September 3rd) General Home's First Army, 
with the Canadian Corps and the Highlanders 
in its ranks, drove eastwards, north and south 
of the Scarpe, till they had come within strik- 
ing distance of the Drocourt-Queant line. In 
twelve hours, on the 2nd of September, the 
Canadian Corps, with forty tanks, Canadian 
cavalry and armoured cars, had captured "the 
whole of the elaborate system of wire, trenches, 
and strong points," which runs north-west from 
the Hindenburg line proper to the Lens de- 
fences at Drocourt; while the 17th Corps at- 
tacked the triangle of fortifications marking 
the junction of the Drocourt-Queant line with 
the Hindenburg line proper, and cleared it 
magnificently, the 52nd (Lowland) Division 
especially distinguishing itself. There was 


"stern fighting" further south that day, right 
down to the neighbourhood of Peronne; but 
during the night the enemy "struck his tents," 
and began a hasty retreat to the line of the 
Canal du Nord. Sixteen thousand prisoners 
and 200 guns had been the spoil of the battle. 
The Battle of Havrincourt (September 12th- 
18th) was a struggle for the outer defences of 
the Hindenburg line, which had to be carried 
before the line itself could be dealt with. 
Six days secured the positions wanted for the 
final attack, and in those six days fifteen 
British divisions had defeated twenty German 
divisions, and captured nearly 12,000 prison- 
ers and 100 guns. 

That rapid summary has brought me back 
to the point from which I started. In three 
months and a half the "mighty conflict," in 
which, on the British side, something short of 
700,000 bayonets were engaged, had rushed on 
from victory to victory; Foch and Haig work- 
ing together in an ideal marriage of minds and 
resources; the attack retaining everywhere by 
the help of the tanks — of which, in the Battle 
of Amiens, General Rawlinson had 400 under 
his command — the elements of surprise and 
mobility. The harassed enemy would find 


himself hard pressed in a particular section, 
driven to retreat, with heavy losses in ground, 
guns and prisoners; and then, as soon as he 
had discovered a line on which to stand and 
had thrown in his reserves, the attack would 
be broken off, only to begin again elsewhere, 
and with the same energy, unexpectedness, 
and success. British Staff work and British 
tactics were at their highest point of excellence, 
and the spirit of the men, fanned by that 
breeze which Victory and Hope bring with 
them, were, in the Commander-in-Chief's word, 

And so we come to the evening of the 26th 
of September. Along these hill-sides, where 
we stand, on the west side of the Canal du 
Nord, lay Sir Julian Byng and the Third Army. 
To his right, on the south-east, was General 
Rawlinson, facing the strongest portion of 
the Hindenburg line, with two American divi- 
sions, led by Major-General Read, under his 
command; while on his left, and to the north, 
the First Army, under General Home, held the 
line along the Canal du Nord, and the marshes 
of the Sensee. 

The most critical moment in the campaign 
had arrived. For in the assault on the Hin- 
denburg line heavy risks had to be run. It is 


clear, I think, from the wording of Marshal 
Haig's dispatch, that in respect to the attack 
he took a special responsibility, which was 
abundantly vindicated by the event. The 
British War Cabinet was extremely anxious; 
the French Generalissimo was content to leave 
it to the British' Commander-in-Chief; and Sir 
Douglas Haig, confident "that the British at- 
tack was the essential part of the general 
scheme, and that the moment was favourable," 
had the decision to make, and made it as we 
know. It is evident also from the dispatch 
that Sir Douglas was quite aware, not only of 
the military, but of the pohtical risk. "The 
political effects of an unsuccessful attack upon 
a position so well known as the Hindenburg 
line would be large, and would go far to revive 
the declining morale^ not only of the German 
Army, but of the German people." This as- 
pect of the matter must, of course, have been 
terribly present to the mind of the British War 

Moreover, the British Armies had been 
fighting continuously for nearly two months, 
and their losses, though small in proportion 
to what had been gained and to the prisoners 
taken, were still considerable. 

Nevertheless, with all these considerations 


in mind, *'' I decided,'^ says General Haig, "to 
'proceed with the attach.''^ 

There lie before me a Memorandum, by an 
officer of the General Staff, on the Hindenburg 
line, drawn up about a month after the cap- 
ture of the main section of it, and also a Ger- 
man report, made by a German officer in the 
spring of 1917. The great fortified system, 
as it subsequently became, was then incom- 
plete. It was begun late in 1916, when, after 
the battle of the Somme, the German High 
Command had determined on the retreat 
which was carried out in February and March 
of the following year. It was dug by Russian 
prisoners, and the forced labour of French and 
Belgian peasants. The best engineering and 
tactical brains of the German Army went to 
its planning; and both officers and men be- 
lieved it to be impregnable. The whole vast 
system was from four miles to seven miles 
deep, one interlocked and inter-communicat- 
ing system of trenches, gun emplacements, 
machine-gun positions, fortified villages, and 
the rest, running from north-west to south-east 
across France, behind the German Hnes. In 
front of the British forces, writes an officer 

* The italics are mine. 


in mind, ^'' I decided,'' says General Haig, "fo 
'proceed with the attack'' 

There lie before me a Memorandum, by an 
oflBcer of the General Staflf, on the Hindenburg 
line, drawn up about a month after the cap- 
ture of the main section of it, and also a Ger- 
man report, made by a German officer in the 
spring of 1917. The great fortified system, 
as it subsequently became, was then incom- 
plete. It was begun late in 1916, when, after 
the battle of the Somme, the German High 
Command had determined on the retreat 
which was carried out in February and March 
of the following year. It was dug by Russian 
prisoners, and the forced labour of French and 
Belgian peasants. The best engineering and 
tactical brains of the German Army went to 
its planning; and both officers and men be- 
lieved it to be impregnable. The whole vast 
system was from four miles to seven miles 
deep, one interlocked and inter-communicat- 
ing system of trenches, gun emplacements, 
machine-gun positions, fortified villages, and 
the rest, running from north-west to south-east 
across France, behind the German lines. In 
front of the British forces, writes an officer 

* The italics are mine. 

British Battles During 1918 (8th Aug. to 1 1th Nov., 1918) 

Canal c/e ». f 

Nofira £ Soutm) 

A, ^£A OF 

Brain LE CoMTE 




, X^mmk CAMBRAI-SQUENTIft s^imsiS^ ^_^ 


^W^ ""^^ 

\^£m\, 12.000 Pi'isoNgDs \ 

> --■:, ^ {Fr^t^ff P3'°&4"ARMIES\ 

JniRD\FouRrH Armies \Ar^es\ 8"-io'"Ocr 

Lks-x}^ SOBSEQUENr OAYS) ^'-\ 

3^250 Prisoners 

, Amiens , \ / - — ' \wv ^ . 

FoupihArmyS h \oo 


i\\\i\\\\\M* ^ — ^ 

450 }/lK, 
Guns I ( ^ 

-^ 460 GUN S 



,<<^ \ V"- 

Captures by British & Allied Armies 
from July 18th to Nov. ilih, 1918 


British Armies 188,700 2,840 

French Armies 139,000 1,880 

American Armies 43,000 1,421 

Belgian Armies 14.500 474 

. f Man J £K 


Sole I Inch 10 10.37 Mi|». 

Thl5 M.p I. b.«« "I"" the !.,„, Coloured M.p of 
•he Britl.h B.«tl«» •' '"« Autumn. I..u,a by O.M n 





of the First Army, before the capture of the 
Drocourt-Queant portion of the line, ran ''line 
upon line, mile upon mile, of defences such as 
had never before been imagined; system after 
complicated system of trenches, protected with 
machine-gun positions, with trench mortars, 
manned by a highly-trained infantry, and by 
machine-gunners unsurpassed for skill and 
courage. The whole was supported by artil- 
lery of all calibres. The defences were the 
result of long-trained thought and of huge 
work. They had been there unbroken for 
years; and they had been constantly improved 
and further organised." And the great canals 
— the Canal du Nord and the Scheldt Canal, 
but especially the latter, were worked into the 
system with great skill, and strongly fortified. 
It is evident indeed that the mere existence 
of this fortified line gave a certain high con- 
fidence to the German Army, and that when 
it was captured, that confidence, already se- 
verely shaken, finally crumbled and broke. 
Indeed, by the time the British Armies had 
captured the covering portions of the line, and 
stood in front of the line itself, the morale of 
the German Army as a whole was no longer 
equal to holding it. For our casualties in 
taking it, though severe, were far less than 


we had suffered in the battle of the Scarpe; 
and one detects in some of our reports, when 
the victory was won, a certain amazement 
that we had been let off — comparatively — so 
lightly. Nevertheless, if there had been any 
failure in attack, or preparation, or leadership, 
we should have paid dearly for it; and a rally 
on the Hindenburg line, had we allowed the 
enemy any chance of it, might have prolonged 
the war for months. But there was no failure, 
and there was no rally. Never had our tried 
Army leaders, General Home, General Byng, 
and General Rawlinson carried out more bril- 
liantly the general scheme of the two supreme 
Commanders; never was the Staff work better; 
never were the subordinate services more 
faultlessly efficient. An American officer who 
had served with distinction in the British 
Army before the entry of his own country into 
the war, spoke to me in Paris with enthusiasm 
of the British Staff work during this three 
months' advance. "It was simply marvellous! 
— People don't understand." "Everything 
was ready," writes an eye-witness of the First 
Army.* The rapidity of our advance com- 

* The following paragraphs are based on the deeply interesting ac- 
count of the First Army operations of last year, written by Captain 
W. Inge, Intelligence and Publicity Officer on Sir Henry Home's 


pletely surprised the enemy, some of whose 
batteries were captured as they were coming 
into action. Pontoon and trestle bridges were 
laid across the canal with lightning speed. 
The engineers, coming close behind the firing 
line, brought up the railways, light and heavy, 
as though by magic — built bridges, repaired 
roads. The Intelligence Staff, in the midst 
of all this rapid movement ''gathered and for- 
warded information of the enemy's forces in 
front, his divisions, his reserves, his inten- 
tions." Telephones and telegraphs were fol- 
lowing fast on the advance, connecting every 
department, whether stationary or still on the 
move. News was coming in at every moment 
— of advances, captures, possibilities in new 
country, casualties, needs. All these were 
being considered and collated by the Staff, 
decisions taken and orders sent out. 

Meanwhile divisions were being relieved, 
billets arranged for, transport organised along 
the few practicable roads. Ambulances were 
coming and going. Petrol must be accessible 
everywhere; breakdown gangs and repair lor- 
ries must be ready always to clear roads, and 
mend bridges. And the men doing these jobs 
must be handled, fed, and directed, as well as 
the fighting line. 


Letters came and went. The men were paid. 
Records of every kind were kept. New maps 
were made, printed, and sent round — and 
quickly, since food and supplies depended on 
them. *'One breakdown on a narrow road, 
one failure of an important message over a 
telephone wire — and how much may depend 
on it !" 

"Yet thanks to intelligent and devoted 
work, to experience and resource, how little 
in these later stages of the war has gone 
wrong !" 

The fighting men, the Staff work, the aux- 
iliary services of the British Army — ^the long 
welding of war had indeed brought them by 
last autumn to a wonderful eflBciency. And 
that eflSciency was never so sharply tested as 
by the exchange of a stationary war for a 
war of movement. The Army swept on "over 
new but largely devastated country," into un- 
known land, where all the problems, as com- 
pared with the long years of trench war, were 
new. Yet nothing failed — "except the as- 
tounded enemy's power of resistance." 

So much from a first-hand record of the 
First Army's advance. It carries me back as 
I summarise it to my too brief stay at Val- 
enciennes, and the conversations of the even- 


ing with the Army Commander and several 
members of his Staff. The talk turned largely 
on this point of training, Staff work, and gen- 
eral efficiency. There was no boasting what- 
ever; but one read the pride of gallant and 
devoted men in the forces they had com- 
manded. "Then we have not muddled 
through?" I said, laughing, to the Army 
Commander. Sir Henry smiled. "No, in- 
deed, we have not muddled through !" 

And the results of this efficiency were soon 
seen. Take first the attack of the First and 
Third Armies on this section. North of Moe- 
uvres the Canadians, under General Home, 
crossing the Canal in the early morning of Sep- 
tember 27th, on a narrow front, and spread- 
ing out behind the German troops holding 
the Canal, by a fan-shaped manoeuvre, bril- 
liantly executed, which won reluctant praise 
from captured German officers, pushed on for 
Bourlon and Cambrai. The 11th Division, 
following close behind, turned northward, with 
our barrage from the heavy guns, far to the 
west, protecting their left flank, towards the 
enemy line along the Sensee, taking ground 
and villages as they went. Meanwhile the 
front German line, pinned between our bar- 


rage behind them and the Canal, taken in 
front and rear, and attacked by the 56th Divi- 
sion, had nothing to do but surrender. 

"The day's results," says my informant of 
the First Army, "were the great Hindenburg 
system (in this northern section) finally broken, 
the height before Cambrai captured, thousands 
of prisoners and great quantities of guns taken, 
and our line at its furthest point 7,000 yards 
nearer Germany. A great triumph ! " 

Meanwhile in the centre — ^just where I have 
asked the reader of this paper to stand with 
me in imagination on the hill-side overlooking 
the Canal du Nord — General Byng's Third 
Army, including the Guards' Division, forced 
the Canal crossings in face of heavy fire, and 
moving forward towards Cambrai in the half 
light of dawn, took trenches and villages from 
the fighting and retreating enemy. After the 
forward troops were over, the engineers rushed 
on, bridging the Canal, under the fire of the 
German guns, rapidly clearing a way for in- 
fantry and supplies. A map issued by the 
Tank Corps shows that close to this point on 
the Cambrai-Bapaume road six tanks were 
operating — among them no doubt that agile 
fellow, whose tracks still show on the hill- 
side! — while on the whole front of the Third 


and First Armies sixty-five tanks were in 
action. By the end of that long day 10,000 
prisoners had been taken, and 200 guns, an 
earnest of what was to follow. 

It was on the front of the Fourth Army, 
however, in the section from St. Quentin to 
Gouzeaucoiu^t, that the heaviest blow was 
planned by the Commander-in-Chief. Here 
the "exceptional strength of the enemy's posi- 
tion made a prolonged bombardment neces- 
sary." So while the First and Third Armies 
were advancing, on the north, with a view to 
lightening the task of the Fourth Army, for 
forty-eight hours General Rawlinson main- 
tained a terrible bombardment, which drove 
the defenders of the famous line underground, 
and cut them off from food and supplies. And 
on the morning of the 29th the Fourth Army 

But I have no intention of repeating in any 
detail the story of that memorable day. The 
exploit of the 46th Division under General 
Boyd, in swimming and capturing the southern 
section of the Canal below Bellenglise, will 
long rank as one of the most amazing stories of 
the war. Down the steep banks clambered 
the men, flung themselves into the water, 
and with life-belts, and any other aid that 


came handy, crossed the Canal under fire, 
and clambered up the opposite bank. And 
the achievement is all the more welcome to 
British pride in British pluck, when it is re- 
membered that, according to the German 
document I have already quoted, it was an 
impossible one. "The deep canal cutting 
from the southern end of the canal tunnel 
. . . with its high steep banks constitutes a 
strong obstacle. The enemy will hardly aU 
taclc here,'' So writes the German oflScer de- 
scribing the line. 

But it was precisely here that "the enemy" 
did attack ! — capturing prisoners (4,000 of 
them by the end of the day, with 70 guns) 
and German batteries in action, before the 
German Command had had time to realise 
the direction of the attack. 

It was not, however, at this point that the 
severest fighting of the battle occurred. Across 
the great tunnel to the north of Bellicourt, 
where the Canal passes for nearly two miles 
underground, ran the main Hindenburg sys- 
tem, carrying it eastwards over the Canal it- 
seK, and it was here that the fiercest resist- 
ance was put up. The two American divi- 
sions had the post of honour and led the 
advance. It was a heavy task, largely owing 


to the fact that it had not been possible to 
master the German outpost Hne completely 
before the advance started, and numerous 
small bodies of the enemy, left behind in 
machine-gun posts, tunnels, and dug-outs, were 
able to harass it seriously for a time. But the 
"Americans fought like lions" — ^how often I 
heard that phrase from our own men in France ! 
The American losses were no doubt higher 
than would have been the case with more 
experienced troops, seasoned by long fighting, 
— so I have understood from oflScers present 
at the battle. It was perhaps partly because 
of "their eagerness to push on" without suffi- 
ciently clearing up the ground behind them 
that they lost so heavily, and that advanced 
elements of the two divisions were for a time 
cut off. But nothing daunted these fresh and 
gallant men. Their sacrifices, as Marshal 
Haig has recently said, addressing General 
O'Ryan, who commanded the 27th Division 
in this fight, were "made with a courage and 
devotion unsurpassed in all the dread story 
of this war. The memory of our great attack 
on the Hindenburg line on September 29th, 
1918, in which the 27th American division, 
with troops from all parts of the British Em- 
pire, took so gallant and glorious a part, will 


never die, and the service then rendered by 
American troops will be remembered with 
gratitude and admiration throughout the Brit- 
ish Empire." 

That misty September day marks indeed a 
culminating moment in the history of the 
Empire and the war. It took six more days 
of sharp fighting to capture the last remnants 
of the Hindenburg line, and six more weeks 
before Germany, beaten and demoralised by 
sea and land, accepted the Armistice terms 
imposed by the Allies. But on September 
29th, the war was for all practical purposes 
won. General Gouraud at the time was mak- 
ing his brilliant advance in Champagne. The 
Americans were pushing forward in the Ar- 
gonne. Both movements were indispensable; 
but it was the capture of this great fortified 
system which really decided the war. ''No 
attack in the history of the world, was ever 
better carried out," said Marshal Foch to 
Mr. Ward Price, in Paris, on April 16th last 
— "than the one made on the Hindenburg line 
near St. Quentin and Cambrai, by the Fourth, 
Third and First British Armies, on September 
27th-29th. The enemy positions were most 
formidable. Nothing could stop the British. 
They swept right over them. It was a glori- 


ous day for British arms." It was also the 
cUmax of two months' fighting in which French, 
British, and Americans had all played to the 
full the part laid down for them by the his- 
tory of the preceding years, and in which it 
fell to the British Army to give the final and 
victorious blow. 

Non nobis, Dominel — non nobis I 

It will, I think, be of use to the non-mili- 
tary reader if I append to the sketch I have 
just given of the last phase of the British 
effort, the following paragraphs written last 
January by an ofiicer of the General Staff, in 
response to the question indicated in the 
opening sentence. 

"I have been asked to say what in my 
opinion were the most critical and anxious 
stages of the series of great successful battles 
opened on the 8th August, 1918. The ques- 
tion is not easy, for the whole period was one 
of high tension, calling for continuous and un- 
sparing effort. 

"From one point of view, the opening bat- 
tle east of Amiens was decisive, for it marked 
the turning point of the campaign on the 
British front. Its moral effects, both on our 


own troops and on the enemy, were far- 
reaching and give the key to the whole of the 
succeeding struggle. Nothing less than a 
sweeping success, such as that actually 
achieved, could have produced this result. 
The days preceding the attack, therefore, 
constituted a most anxious period. On the 
other hand, from the purely military point 
of view, our chances of success were exceed- 
ingly good. The attack was to be delivered 
by fresh troops, second to none in the world 
in fighting qualities, assisted by an unprece- 
dented concentration of mechanical aids to 
victory. Preparations had been long and 
careful, every contingency had been thought 
out, and there was every reason to expect 
that our attack would be a complete surprise. 
"Militarily, the more critical period was 
that which immediately followed the battle 
when, having reached the line of the old 
Somme defences of 1916, it was decided to 
switch the point of attack to the area north 
of the Somme. On the success of this man- 
oeuvre depended whether the attack of the 
8th August was to be a single isolated victory 
comparable to the battle of Messines in June, 
1917, or whether it was to develop into some- 
thing very much greater. The decision was a 


grave one, and was In some sense a departure 
from previous practice. The enemy was now 
on the alert, the troops to be employed had 
already been severely tried in the earlier 
fighting of the year, and failure would have 
called down severe criticism upon the wisdom 
of abandoning so quickly the scene of our first 
great success. 

"It was only after the first days of heavy 
fighting (in the battle of Bapaume), during 
which progress was comparatively slow and 
the situation full of anxiety, that the event 
proved that the step had been wisely taken. 

"Then, when the success of this bold man- 
oeuvre had declared itself, and the enemy had 
begun the first stages of his great retreat, the 
next critical period arrived on the 2nd Sep- 
tember, when the powerful defences of the 
Drocourt-Queant Hne were attacked and 
broken. The effect of this success was to 
render the whole of the enemy's positions to 
the south untenable and to throw him back 
definitely upon the Hindenburg Hne. 

"Undoubtedly the most critical and anxious 
period of the whole advance arrived at the 
end of September. The cuhninating attacks 
of the 27th and 29th of that month on the 
Canal du Nord and Hindenburg line defences 


shattered the most formidable series of field 
defences that military science has yet devised 
and drove the enemy into open country. 
These attacks, indeed, accomplished far more 
than this. They definitely broke the power 
of resistance of the German Armies in the 
field. In the battles which followed, our 
troops were able to take greater and greater 
risks, and on every occasion with complete 

"Yet again, the risk was great. If the 
enemy had succeeded in holding the Hinden- 
burg position, he would have been little, if 
anything, worse oflP, territorially at any rate, 
than he had been before he began his great 
adventure of the spring. It was clearly a 
time for him to pull himself together and hold 
on at all costs. 

"On the other hand and with all its diffi- 
culties, so favourable an opportunity of secur- 
ing immediate and decisive victory, by pressing 
our advantage, could scarcely be expected to 
present itself again. The decision was there- 
fore taken and was justified by success. 

"After this battle, our chief anxieties lay 
rather in the abihty of our supply system to 
keep pace with our Armies than In any re- 
sistance that the enemy could offer. In the 


succeeding battles our troops accomplished 
with comparative ease feats which earlier in 
the struggle it would have been madness to 
attempt; and in the final battle of the war, 
begun on the 4th November, the crossing of 
the Sambre and the clearing of the great 
Mormal Forest furnished a wonderful tribute 
to the complete ascendency which their earlier 
victories had enabled our troops to establish 
over the enemy." 



The Marne — Verdun — Champagne — it is in 
connection with these three names that the 
French war consciousness shows itself most 
sensitive and most profound, just as the war 
consciousness of Great Britain vibrates most 
deeply when you test it with those other 
names — Ypres — ^Arras — the Somme — Cambrai. 
As is the name of Ypres to the Englishman, so 
is that of Verdun to the Frenchman, invested 
even with a more poignant significance, since 
the countryside where so many sons of France 
laid down their lives was their own adored 
mother-land, indivisibly part of themselves, 
as those grim, water-logged flats north and 
south of the Menin road could never be to a 
Lancashire or London boy. And no other 
French battle-field wears for a Frenchman 
quite the same aureole that shines for ever on 
those dark, riven hills of Verdun. But it 
seemed to me that in the feeling of France, 
Champagne came next — Champagne, associ- 
ated first of all with Castelnau's victory in 



the autumn of 1915, then with General Ni- 
velle's tragic check in 1917, with the serious 
crisis in the French Army in May and June 
of that year; and finally with General Gour- 
aud's brilliant successes in the summer and 
autumn of 1918. 

Six weeks ago I found myself in Strasbourg, 
where General Gouraud is iii command of 
the Fourth Army, now stationed in Alsace. 
Through a long and beautiful day we had 
driven south from Metz, across the great 
fortified zone to the south of that town; with 
its endless trenches and wire-fields, its camou- 
flaged roads, its railway stations packed with 
guns, its ammunition dumps and battery- 
emplacements, which Germany had prepared 
at the outset of the war, and which still 
awaited the Americans last November, had 
the AUies' campaign not ended when it did. 
There was a bright sun on all the wide and 
lovely landscape, on the shining rivers, the 
flooded spaces and the old towns, and magnif- 
icent clouds lay piled above the purple Vosges, 
to the south and east. We caught up a French 
division on the march, with long lines of lor- 
ries, artillery wagons, guns and field-kitchens, 
and as our car got tangled up with it in pass- 
ing through the small towns and villages, we 


had ample time to notice the behaviour of 
the country-folk, and the reception given to 
the troops. Nothing, it seemed to me, could 
have been warmer and more spontaneous, es- 
pecially as soon as we crossed the boundary 
of Alsace. The women came running out to 
their door-steps, the children formed a tumul- 
tuous escort, men and women peered smiling 
out of the covered country carts, and trades- 
men left their counters to see the show. 

At Metz I was conscious of a hostile and 
bitter element in the town, not to be wondered 
at when one remembers that Metz has a popu- 
lation of 25,000 immigrant Germans out of a 
population of less than 70,000. But in the 
country towns of Alsace and in Strasbourg 
itself, my own impression, for what it is worth, 
was everywhere an impression of solid and 
natural rejoicing in the new order of things. 
That there are a large number of Germans in 
Strasbourg and Alsace generally is, of course, 
true. There were some 450,000 before the 
war, out of a population of rather more than 
two millions, and there are now at a rough 
estimate about 300,000, of whom nearly 100,- 
000 are to be found in Metz and Strasbourg. 
The whole administration of the two prov- 
inces, with very few exceptions, was a German 

L. 1368] 

[British Official Photograph 

The wonderful exploit of one Brigade of the 46th Division, consisting of 
the South Staff ords and North Staff ords Regts., who crossed the St, 
Quentin Canal, which is part of the Hindenburg Line, by swimming 
in life-belts. They gained their objectives and also captured two 
bridges which allowed the guns to be taken across. The Brigade is 
seen on the steep slope of the Canal. 


administration, imported from Germany, and 
up to the outbreak of war, the universities 
and the schools — i, e., the whole teaching pro- 
fession — ^were German, and many of the 
higher clergy. The leading finance of the 
provinces was German. And so on. But I 
cannot see any reason to doubt that the real 
feeling of the native population in the two 
provinces, whether in town or country, has re- 
mained throughout these forty-eight years 
strongly and passionately French. "Since 
when did you expect the French to come 
back?" asked M. Mirman, the present Com- 
missioner of the French Republic at Metz, 
of an old peasant whom he came across not 
long ago on an ofiicial inspection. The old 
man's eyes kindled — ''Depuis toujour s !'^ he 
said — "I knew it would come, but I was afraid 
it mightn't come till I was dead, so I used to 
say to my son: *If I am dead, and the French 
come back, you will go to the cemetery, you 
will knock three times on my grave — I shall 
hear!' And my son promised." 

My present concern, however, is not with 
the Alsace-Lorraine question, but with the 
brilliant Army Commander who now occupies 
what used to be the Headquarters of the 
German Army Corps which held Alsace. My 


acquaintance with him was due to a piece of 
audacity on my part. The record of General 
Gouraud in Champagne, and at the Dar- 
danelles, was well known to me, and I had 
heard much of his attractive and romantic 
personality. So, on arriving at our hotel 
after a long day's motoring, and after consult- 
ing with the kind French Lieutenant who was 
our escort, I ventured a little note to the 
famous General. I said I had been the guest 
of the British Army for six days on our front, 
and was now the guest of the French Army, 
for a week, and to pass through Strasbourg 
without seeing the victor of the "front de 
Champagne" would be tantaUsing indeed. 
Would he spare an Englishwoman, whose love 
for the French nation had grown with her 
growth and strengthened with her years, 
twenty minutes of his time? 

The note was sent and I waited, looking out 
the while on the gay and animated crowd that 
filled the Platz Gutenberg in front of the 
hotel, and listening to the bands of children, 
shouting the "Marseillaise," and following 
every French oflScer as he appeared. Was 
there ever a more lovely winter evening? A 
rosy sunset seemed to have descended into the 
very streets and squares of the beautiful old 


town. Wisps of pink cloud were tangled in 
the narrow streets, against a background of 
intensely blue sky. The high-roofed burgher 
houses, with their decorated fronts, had an 
"unsubstantial faery" look, under the strange 
rich light; and the front of the Cathedral, 
with its single delicate spire, soared, one suf- 
fusion of rose, to an incredible height above 
the narrow street below. 

'^Allons, enfants de la patri-e!^^ But a 
motor-car is scattering the children, and an 
ordonnance descends. A note, written by the 
General's own left hand — ^he lost his right 
arm in consequence of a wound at the Dar- 
danelles — invites us to dinner with him and 
his stafif forthwith — the motor will return for 
us. So, joyously, we made what simple change 
we could, and in another hour or so we were 
waiting in the General's study for the great 
man to appear. He came at once, and I 
look back upon the evening that followed as 
one of the most interesting that Fate has yet 
sent my way. 

As he entered I saw a man of slight, erect 
figure, lame, indeed, and with that sad, empty 
sleeve, but conveying an immediate and start- 
ling impression as of some fiery, embodied 
force, dominating the slender frame. He had 


a short beard, brown and silky, dark hair, and 
a pair of clear blue eyes, shrewd, indeed, and 
penetrating, but singularly winning. A sol- 
dier, a most modern soldier, yet with an in- 
fusion of something romantic, a touch of 
thoughtful or melancholy charm that recalled 
old France. He was dressed in a dark blue 
mess coat, red breeches, and top boots, with 
three or four orders sparkling on his breast. 
His manners were those of an old-fashioned 
and charming courtesy. 

As is well known, like Marshal Foch and 
General Castelnau, General Gouraud is a 
Catholic. And like General Mangin, the great 
Joffre himself, Gallieni, Franchet d'Esperey, 
d'Humbert, and other distinguished leaders of 
the French Army, he made his reputation in 
the French Colonial service. In Morocco, 
and the neighbouring lands, where he spent 
some twenty-two years, from 1892 to 1914, he 
was the right-hand of General Lyautey, and 
conspicuous no less for his humanity, his 
peace-making, and administrative genius than 
for his brilliant services in the field. When 
the war broke out General Lyautey indeed 
tried for a time to keep him at his side. But 
the impulse of the younger soldier was too 
strong; and his chief at last let him go. Gour- 


aud arrived in France just after the Marne 
victory, and was at once given the command 
of a division in the Argonne. He spent the 
first winter of the war in that minute study 
of the ground, and that friendly and inspiring 
intercourse with his soldiers, which have been 
two of the marked traits of his career, and when 
early in 1915 he was transferred to Cham- 
pagne, as Commander of a Corps d'Armee, 
he had time, before he was called away, to 
make a survey of the battle-field east of 
Rheims, which was of great value to him later 
when he came to command the Fourth French 
Army in the same district. But meanwhile 
came the summons to the Dardanelles, where, 
as we all remember, he served with the utmost 
loyalty and good will under General Sir Ian 
Hamilton. He replaced General d'Amade on 
the 10th of May, led a brilliant and successful 
attack on the 4th of June, and was, alas ! ter- 
ribly wounded before the end of the month. 
He was entering a dressing-station close to 
his headquarters to which some wounded 
French soldiers had just been brought when a 
shell exploded beside him. His aide-de-camp 
was knocked over, and when he picked him- 
self up, stunned and bewildered, he saw his 
General lying a few yards away, with both 


legs and an arm broken. Gouraud, during 
these few weeks, had already made his mark, 
and universal sympathy from French and 
EngUsh followed him home. His right arm 
was amputated on the way to Toulon; the 
left leg, though broken below the knee, was 
not seriously injured, but the fracture of the 
right involved injury to the hip, and led to 
permanent lameness. 

Who would have imagined that a man so 
badly hurt could yet have afterwards become 
one of the most brilliant and successful generals 
in the French Army.^ The story of his re- 
covery must rank with the most amazing in- 
stances of the power of the human will, and 
there are various touches connected with it 
in current talk which show the temper of the 
man, and the love which has been always felt 
for him. One of his old masters of the Col- 
lege Stanislas who went to meet him at the 
station on his arrival at Paris, and had been 
till then unaware of the extent of the Gen- 
eral's wounds, could not conceal his emotion 
at seeing him. "jE/i, c'est le sort des batailles/^ 
said Gouraud gaily, to his pale and stumbling 
friend. "One would have said he was two 
men in one," said another old comrade — "one 
was betrayed to me by his works; the other 


spoke to me in his words." The legends of 
him in hospital are many. He was deter- 
mined to walk again — and quickly. "One has 
to teach these legs," he said impatiently, "to 
walk naturally, not like machines." Hence 
the steeple-chases over all kinds of obstacles — 
stools, cushions, chairs — that his nurses must 
needs arrange for him in the hospital passages; 
and later on his determined climbing of any 
hill that presented itself — at first leaning on 
his mother (General Gouraud has never mar- 
ried), then independently. 

He was wounded at the end of June, 1915. 
At the beginning of November he was sent at 
the head of a French Military Mission to Italy, 
and on his return in December was given the 
command of the Fourth French Army, the 
Army of Champagne. There on that famous 
sector of the French line, where Castelnau and 
Langle de Cary in the autumn of the same 
year had all but broken through, he remained 
through the whole of 1916. That was the 
year of Verdun and the Somme. Neither the 
Allies nor the enemy had men or energy to 
spare for important action in Champagne that 
year; but Gouraud's watch was never sur- 
prised, and again he was able to acquaint 
himself with every military feature, and every 


local peculiarity of the desolate chalk-hills 
where France has buried so many thousands 
of her sons. At the end of 1916, his old 
chief. General Lyautey, now French Minister 
for War, insisted on his going back to Mo- 
rocco as Governor; but happily for the Army 
of Champagne, the interlude was short, and 
by the month of May, Lyautey was once more 
in Morocco and Gouraud in Champagne — to 
remain there in command of his beloved Fourth 
Army till the end of the war. 

Such then, in brief outline, was the story of 
the great man whose guests we were proud to 
be on that January evening. Dinner was very 
animated and gay. The rooms of the huge 
building was singularly bare, having been 
stripped by the Germans before their departure 
of everything portable. But en revanche the 
entering French, finding nothing left in the 
fine old house, even of the mohilier which had 
been left there in 1871, discovered a chateau 
belonging to the Kaiser close by, and requi- 
sitioned from it some of the necessaries of life. 
Bordeaux drunk out of a glass marked with the 
Kaiser's monogram had a taste of its own. In 
the same way, when on the British front we 
drew up one afternoon, north of St. Omer, at 


a level crossing to let a goods train go by, I 
watched the interminable string of German 
trucks, labelled Magdeburg, Essen, Dusseldorf, 
and saw in them, with a bitter satisfaction, the 
first visible signs of the Reparation and Resti- 
tution to be. 

The relations between the General and his 
Staff were very pleasant to watch; and after 
dinner there was some interesting talk of the 
war. I asked the General what had seemed 
to him the most critical moment of the strug- 
gle. He and his Chief of the Staff looked at 
each other gravely an instant and then the 
General said: "I have no doubt about it at 
all. Not May 27th (the break through on 
the Aisne) — not March 21st (the break through 
at St. Quentin)— but May and June, 1917— 
'les mutineries dans Varmee^ i. e,, that bitter 
time of 'depression morale,' as another French 
mihtary critic calls it, affecting the glorious 
French Army, which followed on General 
Nivelle's campaign on the Aisne — March and 
April, 1917 — with its high hopes of victory, 
its initial success, its appalling losses, and its 
ultimate check. Many causes combined, how- 
ever — among them the leave-system in the 
French Army, and many grievances as to food, 
billeting, and the Hke: and the discontent was 


alarming and widespread. But," said Gen- 
eral Gouraud, ''Petain stepped in and saved 
the situation." "How?" one asked. "/Z 
s'occupa du soldat — (he gave his mind to the 
soldier) — that was all." The whole leave- 
system was transformed, the food supply and 
the organisation of the Army canteens were 
immensely improved — ^pay was raised — and 
everything was done that could be done, 
while treating actual mutiny with a stern 
hand, to meet the soldiers' demands. "In 
our army," said General Gouraud, "a system 
of discipline like that of the German Army 
is impossible. We are a democracy. We must 
have the consent of the governed. In the 
last resort the soldier must be able to say: 
* J'obeis d'amitie.' ' ' 

That great result, according to General 
Gouraud, was finally achieved by General 
Petain's reforms. He gave as a proof of it 
that on the night of the Armistice, he and his 
Staff, at Chalons, unable to sit still indoors, 
went out and mingled with the crowd in the 
streets of that great military centre, appar- 
ently to the astonishment and pleasure of the 
multitude. "Everywhere along the line," said 
the General, "the soldiers were cheering 
Petain ! ' Vive Petain ! Vive Petain I ' " Pe- 


tain was miles away; but it was the spon- 
taneous recognition of him as the soldiers' 
champion and friend. 

Gouraud did not say, what was no doubt 
the truth, that the army at Chalons were 
cheering Gouraud no less than Petain. For 
one can rarely talk with French oflScers about 
General Gouraud without coming across the 
statement: "He is beloved by his army. 
He has done so much for the soldiers." But 
not a word of his own share appeared in his 
conversation with me. 

The talk passed on to the German attack 
on the French front in Champagne on July 
15th, that perfectly-planned defence in which, 
to quote General Gouraud's own stirring words 
to his soldiers: "You broke the strength and 
the hopes of the enemy. That day Victory 
changed her camp. She has been faithful to 
us ever since." It makes one of the most 
picturesque stories of the war. The German 
offensive which broke out, as we know, along 
the whole of their new Marne front on July 
15th, had been exactly anticipated for days 
before it began by General Gouraud and his 
Staff. The Fourth French Army, which Gou- 
raud commanded, was lying to the north-east 
of Rheims, and the German attack on the 


Monts de Champagne, already the scene in 
1916 and 1917 of so much desperate fighting, 
was meant to carry the German line down to 
the Marne that same day. Gouraud was 
amply informed by his intelligence staff, and 
his air service, of the enemy preparations, and 
had made all his own. The only question 
was as to the exact day and hour of the 
attack. Then by a stroke of good fortune, 
at eight o'clock on the very evening preced- 
ing the attack, twenty-seven prisoners were 
brought in — of whom some are said to have 
been Alsatian— and closely questioned by the 
Staff. "They told us," said Gouraud, "that 
the artillery attack would begin at ten min- 
utes past midnight, and the infantry attack 
between three and four o'clock that very night. 
I thereupon gave the order for our bombard- 
ment to begin at 11.30 p. m. in order to catch 
the assembling German troops. I had 200 
batteries secretes ready — of which the enemy 
had no idea — which had given beforehand no 
sign of their existence. Then we sat with our 
watches in our hands. Was it true — or not 
true.? 12.5— 12.6— 12.8— 12.9.— Probably it 
was a mare's nest. 12.10 — Crac I — the bom- 
bardment had begun. We sprang to our tele- 
phones!" And presently, as the captured 


German officers began to come in, their French 
captors were listening to their bewildered 
astonishment "at the number of our batteries 
they had never discovered, which were on 
none of their maps, and only revealed them- 
selves at the very moment of their own at- 

Meanwhile, the first French position was not 
intended to be held. The advance posts were 
told to delay and break up the enemy as much 
as possible, but the famous Monts were to be 
abandoned and the real resistance was to be 
offered on a position intermediate between 
the first and second position, and so densely 
held that no infiltration of the enemy was to 
be possible. Everything happened, for once, 
really "according to plan." The advance 
posts, whose order was "to sacrifice them- 
selves," and each member of which knew 
perfectly well the duty laid upon him, held out 
— some of them — all day, and eventually 
fought their way back to the French lines. 
But on the prepared line of resistance the Ger- 
man attack was hopelessly broken, and men 
and reserves coming on fast from behind, 
ignorant of what had happened to the attack- 
ing troops, were mown down by the French 
artillery. "By midday," says the typed 


compte-rendu of operations, which, signed by 
General Gouraud's own left hand, lies before 
me — "the enemy appeared entirely blocked 
in all directions — and the battle-position fixed 
by the General Commanding the Army was 

Gouraud's army had, in fact, according to 
the proclamation of its General, broken the 
attack of fifteen German divisions, supported 
by ten others. The success, moreover, was 
of the greatest strategical importance. Thus 
secured on his right, Foch at once transferred 
troops from the Fourth Army, in support of 
General Mangin's counter-attack of the 18th, 
to the other side of the Marne salient, and 
Gouraud remained firmly on the watch in the 
position he had so victoriously held, till the 
moment came for his own advance in Sep- 

I seem still to see him insisting — in spite of 
his lameness — on bringing the Staff maps him- 
seK from his study, marking on them the 
points where the fighting in the September 
advance was most critical, and dictating to 
one of his Staff the itinerary it would be best 
for us to take if we wished to see part, at 
least, of the battle-field. "And you won't 
forget," he said, looking up suddenly, "to go 


and see two things — the great cemetery at 
Chalons, and the httle 'Cimetiere du Mont 
Muret.'" He described to me the latter, 
lying up in what was the main fighting line, 
and how they had gathered there many of 
the ''unidentifiables" — the nameless, shattered 
heroes of a terrible battle-field, so that they 
rest in the very ground where they gave their 
lives. He might have told me, — but there 
was never a word of it, and I only knew it 
later — that it was in that very scene of desola- 
tion, from May, 1917, to March, 1918, that 
he lived among his men, building up the spirit 
of troops that had suffered much, physically 
and morally, caring for everything that con- 
cerned them, restoring a shaken discipline 
and forging the army which a year later was 
to fight with an iron steadiness under its bril- 
liant chief. 

To fight both in defence and attack. From 
July 15th to September 26th Gouraud re- 
mained passive in Champagne. Then on Sep- 
tember 26th, the day before the British attack 
at Cambrai, he moved, with the First Ameri- 
can Army on his right, against the strong Ger- 
man positions to the east of Rheims, which 
since the beginning of the war had barred the 
French way. In a battle of sixteen days, the 


French captured the whole of the fortified 
zone on this portion of the front, took 21,000 
prisoners, 600 cannon and 3,500 machine guns. 
At the very same moment Sir Douglas Haig 
was driving through the Hindenburg line, and 
up to the west bank of the Selle, taking 48,000 
prisoners and 600 guns; while the Americans 
were pushing through the difficult forest coun- 
try of the Argonne, and along both sides of 
the Meuse. 

The German strength was indeed weaken- 
ing fast. Between July 16th and the Armis- 
tice, the British took 188,700 prisoners, the 
French 137,000, and the Americans 43,000. 



Before we left Strasbourg on our way to 
the "front de Champagne," armed with Gen- 
eral Gouraud's maps and directions, an hour 
or two of most interesting conversation threw 
great light for me on that other "field of 
victory " — Alsace-Lorraine. 

We brought an introduction to Dr. Pierre 
Bucher, a gentleman in whom Alsatian patri- 
otism, both before the war and since the 
Armistice, has found one of its most effective 
and eloquent representatives. A man of a 
singularly winning and magnetic presence, — 
with dark, melancholy eyes, and the look of 
one in whom the flame of life has burnt in the 
past with a bitter intensity, fanned by winds 
of revolt and suffering. Before the war Dr. 
Bucher was a well-known and popular doctor 
in Strasbourg, recognised by Alsatian and 
German alike as a champion of the French 
spirit and French traditions in the lost prov- 
inces. He belonged to that jeunesse of the 



nineties, which, in the absence of any reason- 
able grounds for expecting a reversal of the 
events of 1871, came to the conclusion that 
autonomous liberties would be at any rate 
preferable to the naked repression, at the hands 
of Bismarck and Manteuflel, of the eighties 
and early nineties. The young men of his 
date decided that the whole government of 
the province could not any longer be left to 
the German bureaucrat, and a certain small 
number of them entered the German admin- 
istration, which was imposed on the province 
after 1871 and had been boycotted thence- 
forward up to nearly the end of the century 
by all true Alsatians. But this line of action, 
where it was adopted, was taken entirely with- 
out prejudice to the national demand, which 
remained as firm as ever, supposing circum- 
stances should ever admit of reunion with 

Two causes in particular contributed to the 
irreconcilable attitude of the provinces: — first, 
the liberal tendencies of the population, the 
general sympathy, especially in Alsace, with 
the revolutionary and Napoleonic doctrines of 
Liberal France from 1789 onward; and sec- 
ondly, the amazing lack of political intelli- 
gence shown by their new masters. "Even if 


you could ever have annexed us with success" 
— said Dr. Bucher long before the war, to a 
German publicist with whom he was on 
friendly terms — "y^^ came, as it was, a hun- 
dred years too late. We had taken our stand 
with France at the Revolution. Her spirit 
and her traditions were ours. We were not 
affected by her passing fits of reaction, which 
never really interfered with us or our local 
life. Substantially the revolutionary and Na- 
poleonic era laid the foundations of modern 
France, and on them we stand. They have 
little or nothing in common with an aristo- 
cratic and militarist Germany. Our sympa- 
thies, our traditions, our political tendencies 
are all French — you cannot alter them." 

"But, finally — ^what do you expect or wish 
for.f^" said the German man of letters, after 
he and Dr. Bucher had talked through a great 
part of the night, and the German had listened 
to the Alsatian with an evident wish to under- 
stand Alsatian grievances. 

Dr. Bucher's answer was prompt and ap- 
parently unexpected. 

"Reunion with France," he said quietly — 
"no true Alsatian wishes anything else." 

The German first stared and then threw 
himself back with a good-natured laugh. 


"Then indeed there's nothing to be done." 
{Dann ist ja freilich gar nichts zu machen I) 

The tone was that of a strong man's pa- 
tience with a dreamer; so confident did the 
Germans feel in their possession of the ''Reichs- 

But whatever chance the Germany of Bis- 
marck and WiUiam II. might have had of 
winning over Alsace-Lorriane — and it could 
never have been a good one — ^was ruined by 
the daily and tyrannous blundering of the 
German Government. The prohibition of the 
teaching of French in the primary schools, the 
immediate imposition of German military ser- 
vice on the newly-annexed territories, the con- 
stant espionage on all those known to hold 
strong sympathies with France, or views an- 
tagonistic to the German administration, the 
infamous passport regulations, and a hundred 
other grievances, deepened year by year the 
regret for France, and the dislike for Germany. 
After the first period of "protestation," 
marked by the constant election of "protest- 
ing" deputies to the Reichstag, came the 
period of repression — the "graveyard peace" 
of the late eighties and early nineties — ^fol- 
lowed by an apparent acquiescence of the 
native population. "Our young people in 


those years no longer sang the * Marseillaise,"* 
said Dr. Bueher. Politically, the Alsatians 
despaired and — "we had to live together, 
bon grSy mat gre. But deep in our hearts lay 
our French sympathies. When I was a young 
student, hating my German teachers, the love 
for France beat in my pulses, like a ground 
wave" (comme une vague de fond). 

Then after 1900 the Germans "changed 
greatly." They became every year richer and 
more arrogant; Germany from beyond the 
Rhine developed every year an increasing 
appetit for the native wealth and commerce 
of Alsace; and the methods of government 
became increasingly oppressive and militarist. 
By this time some 400,000 native Alsatians 
had in the course of years left the country, 
and about the same number of immigrant 
Germans had taken their places. The indif- 
ference or apathy of the old population began 
again to yield to more active feelings. The 
rise of a party definitely "Anti-AUemand," 
especially among the country people, made 
itself felt. And finally came, in Dr. Bucher's 
phrase, the period of "la haine" after the 
famous Saverne incident in 1912. That ex- 
traordinary display of German military in- 
solence seemed to let loose unsuspected forces. 


"All of a sudden, and from all sides, there was 
an explosion of fury against the Germans." 

And as the Doctor spoke, his sensitive, 
charming face kindling into fire, I remem- 
bered our slow passage the day before, through 
the decorated streets of the beautiful old town 
of Saverne, in the wake of a French artillery 
division, and amid what seemed the spon- 
taneous joy of a whole population ! 

Through all these years Dr. Bucher was a 
marked man in the eyes of the German au- 
thorities, but he was careful to give them no 
excuse for violence, and so great was his pop- 
ularity, owing clearly to his humanity and 
self-devotion as a doctor, that they preferred 
to leave him alone. The German prefect once 
angrily said to him: "You are a real poison 
in this country, Herr Doctor !" — and not very 
long before the war a German official to whom 
he was applying for leave to invite M. Andre 
Tardieu to lecture in Strasbourg, broke out 
with pettish exasperation: "For twenty years 
you have been turning my hair grey, M. le 
Docteur!" — and permission was refused. At 
the outbreak of war, he naturally escaped from 
Strasbourg, and joined the French army; 
while during the latter part of the struggle, 
he was French military attache at Berne, 


and, as I understand, the head of a most 
successful secret service. He was one of the 
first Frenchmen to re-enter Strasbourg, and 
is now an invaluable liaison official between the 
restored French Government and the popula- 

The practical difficulty of the moment, in 
January last, was how to meet the Alsatian 
impatience to get rid of their German masters, 
bag and baggage, while at the same time 
maintaining the ordinary services. Every 
night, meetings were being held in the Stras- 
bourg squares to demand the immediate de- 
parture of the Germans. ^'QuHls partent ! — 
qu'ils partent tous — et tout de suite T^ The 
French officials could only reply that if an 
immediate clearance were made of the whole 
German administration — "we can't run your 
trains — or carry your posts — or deliver your 
goods." But the German employes were being 
gradually and steadily repatriated — no doubt 
with much unavoidable hardship to indi- 
viduals. Strasbourg contained then about 
65,000 Germans out of 180,000. Among the 
remaining German officials there was often a 
curious lack of realisation of what had hap- 
pened to Germany and to them. "The Ger- 
mans are very gauche — their tone is still just 


the same!" And the Doctor described a 
scene he had witnessed in one of the bureaux 
of the prefecture only the day before. A 
German oflScial was at his desk. Enter an 
Alsatian to make an inquiry about some point 
in a bankruptcy case. The German answered 
him with the curt rudeness which was the 
common oflBcial tone in old days, and finally, 
impatiently told the applicant to go. The Al- 
satian first opened his eyes in astonishment, 
and then — suddenly — ^flamed up. ^^Whatl — 
you think nothing is changed.'^ — ^that you are 
the masters here as you used to be — that you 
can treat us as you used to treat us.^^ We'll 
show you.f^ We are the masters now. Get 
out of that chair ! — Give it me ! — ^while I talk 
to you. Behave civilly to me, ou je vais vous 
flanquer un coup dans le dosl'^ And the Alsa- 
tian went threateningly forward. But the 
German looked up — grew white— and said 
slowly — "Monsieur — ^you are right ! I am at 
your service. What is your business ? " 

I asked about the amount of inter-marriage 
that had taken place during the forty years. 
Dr. Bucher thought it had been inconsiderable 
— and that the marriages, contracted generally 
between German subalterns and girls of the 
inn-keeping or small farming class, had been 
rarely happy. The Alsatian strain was the 


stronger, and the wife's relations despised the 
German intruder. "Not long before the war 
I came upon two small boys fighting in a back 
street." The boy that was getting the worst of 
it was abusing the other, and Dr. Bucher caught 
the words — ''dirty Prussian !" (sale Prussien!)' 
The boy at whom this was hurled, stopped 
suddenly, with a troubled face, as though he 
were going to cry. "No — ^no ! — ^not me ! — 
not me ! my father! " Strange, tragic little 

As to the Church, a curious situation ex- 
isted at that moment in Strasbourg. The 
Archbishop, a good man, of distinguished 
German birth, was respected and liked by his 
clergy, who were, however, French in sympa- 
thies almost to a man. The Archbishop, who 
had naturally excused himself from singing 
the victors' Te Deum in the Cathedral, felt 
that it would be wiser for him to go, and pro- 
posed to Rome that he should resign his see. 
His clergy, though personally attached to him, 
were anxious that there should be no com- 
phcations with the French Government, and 
supported his wish to resign. But Rome had 
refused. Why ? No doubt because the whole 
position of the Church and of Catholicism 
in these very Catholic provinces represents an 
important card in the hand of the Vatican, 


supposing the Papacy should desire at any- 
time to reopen the Church and State question 
with Repubhcan France. What is practically 
the regime of the Napoleonic Concordat still 
obtains in the recovered provinces. The clergy 
have always been paid by the State, and will 
be still paid, I understand, in spite of the 
Combes laws, by a special subvention, for 
the distribution of which the bishops will be 
responsible. And M. Clemenceau, as the 
French Prime Minister, has already nominated 
one or more bishops, as was the case through- 
out France itself up to 1905. 

Everything indeed will be done to satisfy 
the recovered provinces that can be done. 
They are at present the spoiled children of 
France; and the poor devastated North looks 
on half enviously, inclined to think that 
"'Paris forgets us !" — in the joy of the lost ones 
found. But Paris knows very well that there 
are difficulties ahead, and that the French 
love of symmetry and logic will have to make 
substantial concessions here and there to the 
local situation. There are a number of in- 
stitutions, for instance, which have grown up 
and covered the country since 1871, which 
cannot be easily fitted to the ordinary cadre 
of French departmental government. The de- 
partment would be too small a unit. The 


German insurance system, again, is far better 
and more comprehensive than the French, 
and will have, in one way or another, to be 
taken over. 

But my own strong impression is that good- 
will, and the Liberal fond, resting on the ideas 
of 1789, which, in spite of their Catholicism, 
has always existed in these eastern provinces 
(Metz, however, has been much more thor- 
oughly Germanised than Strasbourg since the 
annexation), will see France through. And 
meanwhile the recovery of these rich and beau- 
tiful countries may well comfort her in some 
degree for her desolate fields and ruined towns 
of the North and Centre. The capital value 
of Alsace-Lorraine is put roughly at a thousand 
millions, and the Germans leave behind them 
considerable additions to the wealth of the 
province in the shape of new railway-lines and 
canals, fine stations, and public buildings, 
not to speak of the thousands of fruit-trees 
with which, in German fashion, they have 
lined the roads — a small, unintentional repa- 
ration for the murdered fruit-trees of the 

A few days after our Strasbourg visit we 
drove, furnished with General Gouraud's notes 
and maps, up into the heart of the "front de 


Champagne." You cross the wide, sandy 
plains to the north of Chalons, with their 
scanty pine- woods, where Attila met his over- 
throw, and where the French Army has trained 
and manoeuvred for generations. And pres- 
ently, beyond the great military camp of pre- 
war days, you begin to mount into a region of 
chalk hills, barren and lonely enough before 
the war, and now transformed by the war 
into a scene which almost rivals the Ypres 
salient and Verdun itself in tragic suggestive- 
ness. Standing in the lonely graveyard of 
Mont Muret, one looks over a tortured wilder- 
ness of trenches and shell-holes. Close by 
are all the places famous through years of 
fighting — Souain, Navarin Farm, Tahure, the 
Butte de Tahure, and, to the north-west, 
Somme-Py, Ste. Marie-Py, and so on to Mo- 
ronvilliers and Craonne. In the south-western 
distance I could just descry the Monts de 
Champagne, while turning to the north one 
faced the slopes of Notre Dame des Champs, 
and recalled the statement of General Gouraud 
that on that comparatively open ground the 
fiercest fighting of last October had taken 

And now, not a soul, not a movement ! 
Everywhere lay piles of unused shell, German 


and French, small heaps of hand-grenades 
and bundles of barbed wire. The camouflaged 
battery positions, the deep dug-outs and strong 
posts of the enemy were all about us; a dead 
horse lay not far away; and in front, the white 
crosses of the graveyard. A grim scene, under 
the January sky ! But in the very middle of 
the little cemetery some tender hand had just 
recently fastened a large bunch of white nar- 
cissus to one of the crosses. We had passed 
no one that I could remember on the long as- 
cent; yet the flowers were quite fresh and the 
thought of them — the only living and beautiful 
thing for miles in that scarred wilderness, over 
which a creeping fog was beginning to gather 
— stayed with me for days. 

The Champagne battle-field is indeed deeply 
interwoven with the whole history of the war. 
The flower of the French Army and almost all 
the leading French Generals — Castelnau, Pe- 
tain, Nivelle, Gouraud, have passed through 
its furnace. But famous as it is, and for ever 
associated with the remarkable and fascinating 
personality of General Gouraud, which gives 
to it a panache of its own, it has not the sacred- 
ness of Verdun. 

We had spent the day before the expedition 
to Champagne at St. Mihiel and Verdun. To 


St. Mihiel I will return in my next chapter. 
Verdun I had never seen, and the impression 
that it makes, even in a few hours, is profound. 
In March, 1916, I well remember at Havre, at 
Boulogne, at St. Omer, how intent and ab- 
sorbed a watch was kept along our front over 
the news from Verdun. It came in hourly, 
and the officers in the hotels, French and Eng- 
lish, passed it to each other without much 
speech, with a shrug, or a look of anxiety, or 
a smile, as the case might be. When we ar- 
rived on March 6th at the Visitors' Ch&teau 
at G.H.Q. — then, of course, at St. Omer — our 
first question was: '' Verdun .f^" "All right," 
was the quick reply. "We have offered help, 
but they have refused it." 

No — France, heroic France, trod that wine- 
press alone; she beat back her cruel foe alone; 
and, at Verdun, she triumphed alone. Never, 
indeed, was human sacrifice more absolute; 
and never was the spiritual force of what men 
call patriotism more terribly proved. "The 
poilu of Verdun," writes M. Joseph Reinach, 
"became an epic figure" — and the whole bat- 
tle rose before Europe as a kind of apocalyptic 
vision of Death and Courage, staged on a great 
river, in an amphitheatre of blood-stained hills. 
All the eyes in the world were fixed on this 


little corner of France. For a Frenchman — 
"Verdun was our first thought on waking, 
and was never absent from us through the 

The impression made by the battle — or 
rather, the three battles — of Verdun does not 
depend on the numbers engaged. The British 
Battle of the Somme, and the battles of last 
year on the British front far surpassed it in 
the number of men and guns employed. 
From March 21st last year to April 17th, the 
British front was attacked by 109 divisions, 
and the French by 25. In the most critical 
fighting at Verdun, from February 21st to 
March 21st, the French had to face 21 divi- 
sions, and including the second German attack 
in June and the triumphant French advance 
in December, the total enemy forces may be 
put at 42 divisions. But the story is incom- 
parable ! Everything contributed — the fame 
of the ancient fortress, the dynastic and politi- 
cal interests involved, the passion of patri- 
otism which the struggle evoked in France, 
the spendthrift waste of life on the part of 
the German Command. 

After the French rally, indeed, from the 
first terrific bombardment, which nearly gave 
the German Command its coveted prey, the 


thing became a duel, watched by all Europe, 
between Petain and the Crown Prince; be- 
tween the dynastic interests of the Hohenzol- 
lerns, served by a magnificent army, and the 
finest military and patriotic traditions of 
France. From day to day the pubHc in this 
country watched the fluctuations of the 
struggle with an interest so absorbing that the 
names of Douaumont, Vaux, Mort Homme, 
Cumieres, the Goose's Crest, came to ring in 
our ears almost as the names of Hougoumont, 
La Haye Sainte, La Belle Alliance, rang in 
those of an earlier time. 

Verdun, from a distance, produces the same 
illusion as Rheims. The Cathedral and the 
town are apparently still in being. They have 
not lost their essential outlines, and the veils 
of grey and purple haze between the spectator 
and the reality disguises what both have 
suffered. Then one draws nearer. One enters 
the famous fortress, through the old Vauban 
fortifications, and over the Vauban bridge — 
little touched, to all appearance. And pres- 
ently, as one passes along the streets, one sees 
that here is not a town, but only the ghost, 
the skeleton of a town. The roofless, win- 
dowless houses, of which the streets still keep. 


as in Rheims, their ancient lines, stare at you 
like so many eyeless skulls — the bare bones of 
a city. Only the famous citadel, with its miles 
of underground passages and rooms, is just 
as it was before the battle, and as it will be, 
one may hope, through the long years to come; 
preserved, not for any active purpose of war, 
but as the shrine of immortal memories. 
Itself, it played a great part in the struggle. 
For here, in these dormitories and mess-rooms 
and passages so far underground that even 
the noise of the fierce struggle outside never 
reached them, it was possible for troops 
worn out by the superhuman ordeal of the 
battle, to find complete rest — to sleep — without 

We entered through a large mess-room full 
of soldiers, with, at its further end, a kitchen, 
with a busy array of cooks and orderlies. 
Then someone opened a door, and we found 
ourselves in a small room, very famous in the 
history of the war. During the siege, scores 
of visitors from Allied and neutral countries 
— statesmen, generals, crowned heads — took 
luncheon under its canopy of flags, buried 
deep underground, while the storm of shell 
raged outside. There, in the visitors' book, 
one might turn to the two signatures — one 


of them then only a fortnight old — that all 
France knows : 

" March, 1916 — On les aura I Petain: 
" January, 1918 — On les a I Petain.'^ 

A courteous Commandant, telephoned to 
from below, came from some upper region to 
greet us and to show us something of the end- 
less labyrinth of rooms, passages and dormi- 
tories, which during the siege often sheltered 
thousands of men. The veteran Colonel Du- 
hay, who was in command of the citadel 
during the greater part of the year-long bat- 
tle — a splendid, square-built tower of a man 
— I saw later in Paris. It was ill-luck not to 
have been able to walk with him over the 
tragic battle-field itself, for few men can have 
memories of it at once so comprehensive and 
so close. From the few words I had with him 
I retain a shuddering impression as of a 
slaughter-house; yet nothing could be cheer- 
fuller or humaner than the broad soldier-face. 
But our talk turned on the losses of Verdun, 
and although these losses — i, e,, the propor-^ 
tion of death to the square yard — were prob- 
ably exceeded in several later battles, in none,] 
it seems to me, has the massacre of men oi 


both sides left so terrible a mark on the sur- 
vivors. There came a time when the French 
were sick of slaying, and the German dead 
were piled metres high on the slopes of Mort 
Homme and Cumieres; in those weeks at 
the end of May, when the Germans, conscious 
that their prestige had sufifered irreparably 
in the hundred days — which were to have 
been four! — of desperate and indecisive fight- 
ing, were at the opening of that fierce last 
effort which gave them Fort Vaux and its 
hero-commander, Commandant Raynal, on 
June 7th — ^put them in short-lived possession 
of Thiaumont and Fleury later — and was 
then interrupted at the end of the month by 
the thunder of the Allied attack on the Somme. 
After leaving the citadel and the much- 
injured cathedral, beneath the crypt of which 
some of the labyrinthine passages of the old 
fortress are hewn, we drove through the eastern 
section of the battle-field, past what was once 
Fort Souville, along an upper road, with Vaux 
on our right, and Douaumont on the northern 
edge of the hill in front of us; descending again 
by Froide Terre, with the Cote de Poivre be- 
yond it to the north; while we looked across 
the Meuse at the dim lines of Mort Homme, of 
the Bois des Corbeaux and the Crete de I'Oie, 


of all that "chess-board" of hills which be- 
came so familiar to Europe in those marvel- 
lous four months from February to June, 
1916. Every yard of these high slopes has 
been fought over again and again, witnessing 
on the part of the defenders a fury of endur- 
ance, a passion of resolve, such as those, per- 
haps, alone can know who hear through all 
their being the mystic call of the soil, of the 
very earth itself, the actual fatherland, on 
which they fight. ^^We are but a moment of 
the eternal France :" — such was once the say- 
ing of a French soldier, dying somewhere amid 
these broken trenches over which we are look- 
ing. What was it, asks M. Reinach, that 
enabled the French to hold out as they did.f^ 
Daring^ he replies — the daring of the leaders, 
the daring of the troops led. The word 
hardly renders the French ^'audace/' which is 
equally mis-translated by our English "au- 
dacity." ^^Audace'' implies a daring which 
is not rashness, a daring which is justified, 
which is, in fact, the military aspect of a great 
nation's confidence in itself. It was the spirit 
of the "Marseillaise," says M. Reinach again 
— it was the French soul — Fame frangaise — ^the 
soul of country and of freedom, which tri- 
umphed here. 


And not for France alone. At the moment 
when the attack on Verdun began, although 
the British military power was strengthening 
month by month, and the Military Service 
Act of May, 1916, which put the finishing touch 
to Lord Kitchener's great work, was close at 
hand, the French Army was still not only 
the principal, but the essential element in the 
Western campaign. France, at Verdun, as 
in the Battle of the Marne, was defending not 
only her own freedom, but the freedom of 
Europe. A few months later, when the Brit- 
ish Army of the Somme went over its parapets 
at daybreak on July 1st, Verdun was auto- 
matically relieved, and it was clear to all the 
world that Britain's apprenticeship was past, 
and that another great military power had been 
born into Europe, on whom, as we now know, 
the main responsibilities of final victory were 
to rest. But at Verdun France fought for us 
— ^for England and America no less than for 
herself; and that thought must always deepen 
the already deep emotion with which English 
eyes look out upon these tortured hills. 

That dim Kne on the eastern ridge, which 
marks the ruins of Fort Vaux, stands indeed 
for a story which has been entrusted by his- 
tory to the living memory of France's Allies, 


hardly less than to that of France herself. 
As we pause among the crumbling trenches 
and shell-holes to look back upon the height 
of Vaux, I seem to see the lines of French in- 
fantry creeping up the hill, through the com- 
munication trenches, in the dark, to the re- 
lief of their comrades in the fort; the runners — 
eager volunteers — assuring communications un- 
der the incessant hail of shell; the carrier- 
pigeons, when the fort is altogether cut oflf, 
bringing their messages back to Headquarters; 
the red and green signal lights shooting up 
from the ridge into the night. One of these 
runners, when the siege was nearing its end, 
arrived at an advance post, having by a mir- 
acle got through a terrible barrage unhurt. 
"You might have waited a few instants," 
said the Colonel, kindly. But the runner, 
astonished, showed the envelope. "My Col- 
onel, look — it is written — 'urgent /' " 

That was the spirit. Or Hsten to this frag- 
ment from the journal of Captain Delvert, 
defending one of the redoubts that protect 
Fort Vaux: 

"Six o'clock — the bombardment has just begmi again. The 

stretcher-bearer, L , has just been leaning a few moments 

— worn out — against the wall of my dug-out. His good, hon- 
est face is hollow, his eyes, with their blue rims, seem starting 


out of his head. 'Mon Capitaine^ I'm used up. There are 
only three stretcher-bearers left. The others are dead or 
wounded. I haven't eaten for three days, or drunk a drop of 
water.' His frail body is only held together by a miracle of 
energy. Talk of heroes — here is a true one ! 

" Eight o'clock. We are relieved. 

"Eleven o'clock. Message from the Colonel. 'Owing to 
circumstances the 101st cannot be relieved.* 


"What a disappointment for my poor fellows! Lieutenant 

X is lost in admiration of them. I daresay — ^but I have 

only thirty-nine of them left." 

Eighteen hours later. 

"The order for relief has come. We shall leave our dead 
behind us in the trench. Their comrades have carefully placed 
them out of the passage-way. . . . There they are — ^poor 
sentinels, whom we leave behind us, in a line on the parados, 
in their blood-stained uniforms — solemn and terrible guardians 
of this fragment of French soil, which still in death they seem 
to be holding against the enemy." 

But the enemy advances inexorably, and 
within the fort the dead and dying multiply. 

"Captain Tabourot fought like a lion," says another witness. 
"He was taller than any of us. He gave his orders briefly, 
encouraged us, and placed us. Then he plunged his hand 
mto the bag of bombs, and, leaning back, threw one with a 
full swing of the arm, aiming each time. That excited us, 
and we did our best." 

But meanwhile the enemy is stealing up 
behind, between the trench and the fort. 


Captain Tabourot is mortally hit, and is car- 
ried into the dressing-station within the fort. 
Commandant Raynal, himself wounded, comes 
to see him. "No word of consolation, no false 
hope. The one knows that all is over; the 
other respects him too deeply to attempt a 
falsehood." A grasp of the hand — a word 
from the Commandant: "Well done, mon 
amir^ But the Captain is thinking of his 
men. "Mon Commandant — if the Boches get 
through, it is not the fault of my company. 
They did all they could." Then a last mes- 
sage to his wife. And presently his name is 
carried through the dark by a carrier-pigeon 
down to the Headquarters below: "The 
enemy surrounds us. I report to you the 
bravery of Captain Tabourot, seriously 
wounded. We are holding out." And a few 
hours later: "Captain Tabourot of the 142nd 
has died gloriously. Wound received in de- 
fending the north-eastern breach. Demand 
for him the Legion of Honour." 

For five days the heroic defence goes on. 
All communications are cut, the passages of 
the fort are choked with wounded and dying 
men, the water is giving out. On the 4th, a 
wounded pigeon arrives at Headquarters. It 
brings a message, imploring urgently for help. 


"This IS my last pigeon." The following day 
communication is partly re-established, and 
a few fragmentary messages are received. 
"The enemy" — signals the fort — "is working 
on a mine to the west of the fort. Turn on 
the guns — quick." . . . "We don't hear your 
artillery. Are attacked by gas, and flame 
throwers. Are at the last extremity." Then 
one message gets through from below — "Cour- 
age ! we shall soon attack." The fort waits, 
and at night another fragmentary message 
comes from Raynal asking for water and re- 
lief. "I am nearly at the end of my powers. 
The troops— men and ofiicers — have in all 
circumstances done their duty. . . . You will 
come, no doubt . . . before we are completely 
exhausted. Vive la France!'^ 

But death and thirst — thirst, above all — 
are victors. On the 6th, a few hours before 
the inevitable end. Marshal Joffre flashed his 
message to the heights — in the first place, a 
message of thanks to troops and Commander 
for their "magnificent defence," in the next, 
making Commandant Raynal a Commander 
of the Legion of Honour. 

On the 7th a last heroic effort was made to 
relieve the fort. It failed, and Raynal — 
wounded, with a handful of survivors— sur- 


rendered, the Germans, in acknowledgment of 
the heroism of the defence, allowing the Com- 
mandant to retain his sword. 

What manner of men were they that fought 
this fight? What traditions did they repre- 
sent ? What homes did they come from ? 

M. Henri Bordeaux, himself an eye-witness, 
to whose admirable and moving book on. 
The Last Days of Fort Vaux, I am indebted 
for the preceding details, to some extent 
answers the question by quoting a letter, ad- 
dressed by his mother to the stretcher-bearer, 
Roger Vamier, decorated in 1915 by General 
Joffre himself. 

^'Et tai, mon tresor — ^you must have a great 
deal to do. . . . Well, do all you can to save 
those poor wounded ! — left there in the snow 
and blood. My blood boils to be staying on 
here, when there is so much to do over^there, 
in picking up those poor fellows. Why won't 
they have a woman .^ — there, where she could 
really help ! It is the business of mothers to 
pick up those poor lads, and give them a good 
word. Well, you must replace the mothers, 
you, mon cheriy you must do all you can — do 
the impossible — to help. I see you running — 
creeping along — looking for the wounded. If 


I could only be there too ! — ^Yes, it is my place, 
mon petit, near you. Courage, courage! — ^I 
know it is the beginning of the end — and the 
end will be grand for all those who have fought 
in the just cause." 

A month later thousands of English, Scotch, 
Welsh and Irish lads, men from Canada, South 
Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, were 
passing on the Somme through a similar 
furnace of death and suffering to that borne 
by the French at Verdun. But the English 
ways of expression are not the French; and 
both differ from the American. The instinct 
for ringing and dramatic speech rarely deserts 
the Frenchman — or Frenchwoman. It is pres- 
ent in the letter written by Roger Vamier's 
mother, as in the Ordres du Jour of Castelnau 
or Petain. Facility of this kind is not our 
forte. Our lack of it suggests the laughter in 
that most delightful of recent French books, 
Les Silences du Colonel Bramble, which turns 
upon our national taciturnities and our min- 
imising instinct in any matter of feeling, an 
instinct which is like the hiding instinct, the 
protective colouring of birds — only anxious 
to be mistaken for something else. The Eng- 
lishman, when emotion compels him, speaks 


more readily in poetry than prose; it is the 
natural result of our great poetic tradition; 
and in the remarkable collections of war poetry 
written by English soldiers we have the Eng- 
lish counterpart to the French prose utterance 
of the war — so much more eloquent and efifec- 
tive, generally, than our own 

One more look round the slopes over which 
the light is fading. The heroism of the de- 
fence ! — that, here, is the first thought. But 
on the part of the attackers there was a cour- 
age no less amazing, though of another sort; 
the effect of an iron discipline hypnotising the 
individual will, and conferring on the soldier 
such superhuman power of dying at another 
man's will as history — on such a scale — ^has 
scarcely seen equalled. In the first battle of 
Verdun, which lasted forty-eight days (Feb- 
ruary ^Ist to April 9th), the German casualties 
were over 200,000, with a very high proportion 
of killed. And by the end of the year the 
casualties at Verdun, on both sides, had reached 
700,000. Opinion in Germany, at first so 
confident, wavered and dropped. Why not 
break off? But the dynasty was concerned. 
Fortune, toute entiere a sa proie attachee, drove 
the German Army again and again through 


lanes of death, where the French 75's worked 
their terrible will — for no real military ad- 
vantage. ''On the 10th of March," says M. 
Henri Bordeaux, ''the enemy climbed the 
northern slopes of Fort Vaux. He was then 
from two to three hundred metres from the 
counter-scarp. He took three months to cross 
these two to three hundred metres — three 
months o{ superhuman effort, and of incredi- 
ble losses in young men, the flower of the 
nation." The German strategic reserves were 
for the first time seriously shaken, and by the 
end of this wonderful year Petain, Nivelle, and 
Mangin between them had recovered from the 
assailants all but a fraction of what had been 
lost at Verdun. Meanwhile, behind the 
"shield" of Verdun, which was thus attract- 
ing and wasting the force of the enemy, the 
Allied Armies had prepared the great offensive 
of the summer. Italy struck in the Trentino 
on the 25th of June, Russia attacked in June 
and July, the British attacked on the Somme 
on July 1st. The "wearing-down" battle 
had begun in earnest. "Soldiers of Verdun," 
said Marshal Joffre, in his order of the 12th 
of June, "the plans determined on by the 
Coalition are in full work. It is your heroic 
resistance that has made this possible. It 


was the indispensable condition, and it will 
be the foundation, of our coming victories." 
"Germany" — says M. Reinach — "during ten 
months had used her best soldiers in furious 
assaults on Verdun. . . . These troops, among 
the finest in the world, had in five of these 
months gained a few kilometres of ground on 
the road to the fortress. This ground, watered 
with blood as no field of carnage had ever 
been, which saw close upon 700,000 men fall, 
was lost in two actions (October 24th — No- 
vember 3rd and December 15th — 18th), and 
Germany was brought back to within a few 
furlongs of her starting point. . . . Douau- 
mont and Louvemont were certainly neither 
Rocroy nor Austerlitz; but Verdun, from the 
first day to the last, from the rush stemmed 
by Castelnau to the battles won by Nivelle 
and Mangin; Verdun, with her mud-stained 
poilu, standing firm in the tempest, who said: 
"They shall not pass!" (passer ont pas!), and 
they have not passed; Verdun, for the Ger- 
mans a charnel-house, for us a sanctuary, was 
something greater by far." 

With these thoughts in mind we dropped 
down the long hill to Verdun again, and so 
across the bridge and on to that famous road, 


the Voie Sacree, up which Petain, "the road- 
mender" {Le Cantonnier), brought all his 
supplies — ^men, food, guns, ammunition — from 
Bar-le-Due by motor-lorry, passing and re- 
passing each other in a perpetual succession 
— one every twenty seconds. The road was 
endlessly broken up, sometimes by the traffic, 
sometimes by shell, and as endlessly repaired 
by troops specially assigned to the task. And 
presently we are passing the Moulin des Re- 
grets, where Castelnau and Petain met on 
the night of the 25th, and the resolution was 
taken to counter-attack instead of withdraw- 
ing. Verdun^ indeed, is the classic illustration 
of the maxim that attack is the best defence, 
or, as the British Commander-in-Chief puts 
it in his latest dispatch, that '* defensive suc- 
cess in battle can be gained only by a vigorous 
offensive." The long battle on the Meuse, 
"the greatest single action in history," was in 
one aspect a vast school, in which a score of 
matters belonging to the art of war were 
tested, illustrated, and explained, with the 
same general result as appears throughout the 
struggle, a result insisted on by each great 
commander, British or French, in turn; i. e., 
that in the principles of war there is nothing 
new to be learnt. Discipline, training, co- 


operation, attack; these are the unchanging 
forces the great general has at command. It 
depends on his own genius what he makes of 

Verdun fades behind us, and we are on our 
way to the Marne. In the strange isolation 
of the car, passing so quickly, as the short 
winter twilight comes on, through country 
one has never seen before and will perhaps 
never see again, the war becomes a living 
pageant on the background of the dark. Then, 
with the lights of Chateau-Thierry, thought 
jumps in a moment from the oldest army in 
the war to the youngest. This old town, 
these dim banks of the Marne, have a long 
history. But in the history of last year, and 
the closing scenes of the Great War, they be- 
long specially to America. This is American 

To realise what that means, we must re- 
trace our steps a little. 



On March 2nd, 1917, I found myself lunch- 
ing at Montreuil, then the General Head- 
quarters of the British Expeditionary Force, 
with the Staff of the Intelligence Department. 
After lunch I walked through the interesting 
old town, with the Chief of the Department, 
and our talk turned on the two subjects of 
supreme importance at that moment — America 
and Russia. When would America come in.^ 
For that she would come in was clear. It 
was now a full month since diplomatic relations 
between Germany and the United States had 
been broken off, and about a week since Presi- 
dent Wilson had asked Congress to arm 
American vessels in seK-defence against the 
new submarine campaign announced by Ger- 
many in January. "It can't be long," said 
my companion quietly; "Germany has gone 
too far to draw back. And the President will 
have the whole country with him. On the 
whole I think he has been right to wait. It is 
from Americans themselves of course that one 



hears the sharpest criticism of the President's 

My own correspondence of the winter in- 
deed with American friends had shown me 
the passion of that criticism. But on the 
2nd of March there was small further need 
for it. Germany was rushing on her fate. 
During the course of the month, England and 
America watched the piling up of the German 
score as vessel after vessel was sunk. Then 
on the 1st of April came the loss of twenty- 
eight American lives in the Aztec, and the 
next day but one we opened our London 
newspapers to find that on April the 2nd 
President Wilson had asked Congress for a 
Declaration of War. 

"America is in," wrote an officer at G.H.Q., 
"and the faces of everybody one sees show a 
real bit of spring sunshine. People begin to 
say: 'Now we shall be home by Christmas.'" 

But something else had happened in that 
fateful month of March. March the 9th saw 
the strange, uncertain opening of the Russian 
revolution, followed by a burst of sympathy 
and rejoicing throughout Europe. Only those 
intimately acquainted with the structure of 
Russian society felt the misgivings of those 
who see the fall of a house built on rotten 


foundations and have no certainty of any firm 
ground whereon to build its successor. But 
the disappointment and exasperation of the 
Allies at that moment, as to all that had 
happened in Russia during the preceding 
months, under the old regime, was so great 
that the mere change bred hope; and for a 
long time we hoped against hope. All the 
more because the entry of America, and the 
thrilling rapidity of her earlier action put the 
Russian business into the shade, may, indeed, 
have dulled the perceptions of the Allies with 
regard to it. In forty days from the declara- 
tion of war the United States had adopted 
Conscription, which had taken us two years; 
General Pershing and his small force had sailed 
for France within eighty days; and by the 
end of June, or within ninety days, America 
had adopted the blockade policy of Great 
Britain, and assented to the full use of that 
mighty weapon which was to have so vast an 
influence on the war. President Wilson's 
speech, when he came to Congress for the 
Declaration of War, revealed him — and Amer- 
ica — ^to England, then sorely brooding over 
"too proud to fight," in an aspect which re- 
vived in us all that was kinship and sym- 
pathy, and put to sleep the natural resent- 


ments and astonishments of the preceding 
years. Nay, we envied America a man capa- 
ble of giving such magnificent expression to 
the passion and determination of all free 
nations, in face of the German challenge. 

Then came the days of disappointment. 
Troops arrived at a more leisurely pace in 
France than had been hoped. Ships and 
aeroplanes, which American enthusiasm in the 
early weeks of the war had promised in pro- 
fusion, delayed their coming; there was con- 
gestion on the American railways, interfering 
with supplies of all kinds; and the Weather 
God, besides, let loose all his storm and snow 
battalions upon the Northern States to ham- 
per the work of transport. We in England 
watched these things, not realising that our 
own confidence in the military prospects and 
the resisting power of the Allies, was partly 
to blame for American leisureliness. It was 
so natural that American opinion, watching 
the war, should split into two phases — one 
that held the war was going to be won quickly 
by negotiation, before America could seriously 
come in; the other that the war would go on 
for another three years, and therefore there 
would be ample time for America to make all 
her own independent plans and form her own 


separate army with purely American equip- 
ment. English opinion wavered in the same 
way. I well remember a gathering in a Lon- 
don house in November, 1917, just after the 
first successful attack in the Battle of Cambrai. 
It was a gathering in honour of General Bliss, 
and other American officers and high officials 
then in London. General Bliss was the centre 
of it, and the rugged, most human, most lov- 
able figure of Mr. Page was not far away. 
The Battle of Cambrai was in progress, and 
English expectations, terribly depressed, at 
any rate among those who knew, by the re- 
ports which had been coming through of the 
severe fighting in the Sahent, during the pre- 
ceding weeks, were again rising rapidly. Every- 
body was full of the success of the initial at- 
tack, of the tanks above all, and what they 
might mean for the future. At last Sir JuUan 
Byng had achieved surprise; at last there had 
been open fighting; if by happy chance we 
took Cambrai what might not happen? A 
flash of optimism ran through us all. Victory 
and peace drew nearer. Yet in the background 
there were always those dim rumours of the 
appalling losses at Passchendaele, together 
with the smarting memory of Caporetto, and 
of the British divisions sent to Italy. 



And in ten days more we knew that the 
German counter-attack had checked the Cam- 
brai advance, that Bourlon Wood was lost, 
that Cambrai was still inaccessible, and we 
retained only a portion of the ground gained 
by the dash and skill of the first days. The 
moral was, as always — ''more men!" and we 
settled down again to a stubborn waiting for 
our own new recruits, then in the training 
camps, and for the first appearance of the 
American battalions. Meanwhile the news 
from Russia grew steadily worse; the Russian 
Army had melted away under the Kerensky 
regulations; and the country was rapidly 
falling into chaos. Brest-Litovsk was acutely 
realised for the German triumph that it was; 
and the heads of the Army were already cal- 
culating with some precision the number of 
German divisions, then on the Eastern front, 
which must inevitably be transferred to France 
for the spring oflfensive of the German Army. 

It was natural that those really acquainted 
with the situation should turn feverishly 
towards America. When was her Army com- 
ing? In the matter of money America had 
done nobly towards all the Allies. In this 
field her help had been incalculably great. In 
the matter of munitions and stores for the 


Allies she had done all that the state of her 
railways, the weather of her winter, and the 
drawbacks of the American Constitution, con- 
sidered as a military machine, as yet allowed 
her to do. Meanwhile one saw the President, 
aided by a score of able and energetic men, 
constantly at work removing stones in the 
path, setting up a War Industries Board, re- 
organising the Shipping Board and the Air 
Service, and clearing the way for those food 
supplies from the great American and Canadian 
wheatfields without which Europe could not 
endure, and which were constantly endangered 
by the pressure of the submarine attack. Per- 
haps in all that anxious winter the phase of 
American help which touched us EngUsh folk 
most deeply was the voluntary rationing by 
which hundreds and thousands of American 
families, all over the vast area of the States, 
eagerly stinted themselves that they might 
send food overseas to Great Britain and the 
Allies — sixty million bushels of wheat by 
January 1st — ninety miUions before the 1918 
harvest. We knew that it was only done by 
personal sacrifice, and we felt it in our hearts. 
Meanwhile, on this side of the sea, the 
anxiety for men grew steadily stronger. Who 
knew what the coming spring campaign would 


bring forth? The French Army during 1917 
had passed through that depression morale of 
which I have spoken in an earlier letter. 
Would a country which had borne such a long 
and terrible ordeal of death and devastation 
be capable of yet another great effort during 
the coming year, whatever might be the heroic 
patriotism of her people? One heard of the 
enormous preparations that America was mak- 
ing in France — of the new docks, warehouses, 
and railways, of the vast depots and splendid 
camps that were being laid out — with a mix- 
ture of wonder and irritation. A friend of 
mine, on coming back from France, described 
to me his going over a new American dock 
with two French officers: ''Magnificent!" said 
the Frenchmen, in a kind of despair — ''but 
when are they going to begin? Suppose the 
war is over, and France swallowed up, before 
they begin?" A large section of American 
opinion was shaken with the same impatience. 
American letters to English friends, includ- 
ing those of Mr. Roosevelt to his many Eng- 
lish correspondents, among whom, to some 
small extent, I was proud to reckon myself, 
expressed an almost fierce disappointment 
with the slow progress of things. Ultimately, 
of course, an independent American Army, 


under its own Commander-in-Chief, and fully 
equipped from American factories. But why 
not begin by sending men in as large numbers 
as possible to train with the British and French 
Armies, and to take their places as soon as 
possible in the fighting Une, as integral parts 
of those armies, allowing the Allies to furnish 
all equipment till America was really ready? 
It was pointed out that Canada and Aus- 
tralia, by sending officers and men over at 
once to train and fight with the British, and 
leaving everything else to be supplied by the 
Allies, had in nine months from the outbreak 
of war already taken part in glorious and 
decisive battles. Or why not adopt a two- 
fold policy — of supplying men to the Allies as 
rapidly as possible, for immediate aid, carry- 
ing on preparations the while for an inde- 
pendent American Army with all its own sup- 
plies, as the ultimate goal.^^ Time, it was 
urged, was of the utmost importance. And 
what object was served by experimenting with 
new types of munitions, instead of adopting 
the types of the Allies, which the American 
factories were already turning out in pro- 
fusion.^ And so on. 

With such feelings did many of us on this 
side of the water, and a large section appar- 


ently of American friends of the Allies on the 
other side, watch the gradual unravelling of 
America's tangled skeins. The North American 
Review asked in December, 1917: "Are we 
losing the war ? No. But we are not winning 
it." In January, 1918, the editor warned his 
readers: "The Allied forces are not in condi- 
tion to withstand the terrific onslaught which 
Germany is bound to make within six months. 
America must win the war." In April the 
New York Bankers' Bulletin said: "We have 
not made progress as far as we might or could," 
while months later, even in its September 
number (1918), the North American Review 
still talked of "our inexplicable military slug- 
gishness," and rang with appeals for greater 
energy. There was of course an element of 
politics in all this; but up to March last year 
it is clear that, in spite of many things not 
only magnificently planned, but magnificently 
done, there was a great deal of sincere anxiety 
and misgiving in both countries. 

But with the outbreak of the German of- 
fensive in March, as we all know, everything 
changed. American troops began to rush over: 
— 366,000 in round numbers, up to the end of 
March, and 440,000 more, up to the end of 
June, 70 per cent, of them carried in British 


ships; a million by the end of July, nearly a 
million and a half before the Armistice. Won- 
derful story! Nobody, I think, can possibly 
exaggerate the heartening and cheering effect 
of it upon the Allies in Europe, especially on 
France — wounded and devastated France — 
and on Italy, painfully recovering from Capo- 
retto. How well I remember the thrill of 
those days in London, the rumours of the 
weekly landings of troops — 70,000 — 80,000 men 
— and the occasional sight of the lithe, straight- 
Hmbed, American boys marching through our 
streets ! 

And yet, curiously enough — ^what was exag- 
gerated all the time, on both sides of the At- 
lantic, both here and in America, was the ex- 
tent of the British set-back in March and 
April, and its effect on the general situation. 
That is clear, I think, when we look back on 
our own Press at home, and still more on 
American utterances, both in the States and 
in France. In August of last year Mr. Secre- 
tary Baker said: "We are only just beginning" 
— and he pointed to the millions of men that 
America would have in France by 1919. On 
August 7th General March, Chief of the 
American General Staff, said in the Senate 
Committee, that America would have four 


millions of men in France, with one million at 
home, for the campaign of 1919. "The only 
way that Germany can be whipped is by 
America going into this thing with her whole 
strength. It is up to us to win the war. . . . 
We must force the issue and win." The editor 
of the North American Review wrote in August, 
and published in his September number, phrases 
like the following: '*But the hand of the enemy 
cannot be struck down for a long time to come." 
"Virtually impregnable positions" are still 
held by him. "No military observer is so 
sanguine as to anticipate anything like con- 
clusive results from the present campaign. 
The real test will come next year, in the late 
spring and summer of 1919." By then the 
Allies must have "a great preponderance of 
men and guns. These America must supply." 
But when General March said in August: 
"It is up to us to win the war," and the North 
American Review talked of "virtually impreg- 
nable positions," and the impossibility of *' any- 
thing like conclusive results from the present 
campaign" — the capture of those "impreg- 
nable positions" by the British Army, and 
thereby the winning of the war, were only a 
few weeks away ! Similar phrases could be 
quoted from the British Press, and from 


prominent Englishmen, though not, unless 
my memory plays me false, from any of our 
responsible military leaders. The fact is that 
the view I represented, in my second article, 
as the view taken by the heads of the British 
Army, of the March retreat, had turned out 
by the summer to be the true one. The 
German armies had to a large extent beaten 
themselves out against the British defensive 
battle of the spring: and while the Americans 
were making their splendid spurt from April 
to August, and entering the fighting field in 
force for the first time, the British Army, hav- 
ing absorbed its recruits, taken huge toll of its 
enemies, and profited by all there was to be 
learnt from the German oflfensive, was getting 
ready every day to give the final strokes in 
the war, aided, when the moment came, by 
the supreme leadership of Marshal Foch, by 
the successes of Generals Mangin and De- 
goutte on the Marne, by the masterly cam- 
paign of General Gouraud in Champagne, and 
the gallant push of General Pershing in the 
Argonne. This position of things was not 
sufficiently realised by the general public in 
England, still less by the American public, as 
is shown by the extracts I have quoted. So 
that the continuous series of British victories, 


from August 8th onward, which ended in the 
Armistice, came as a rather startling surprise 
to those both here and abroad who, hke von 
Kluck in 1914, had been incHned to make too 
much of a temporary British retreat. 

Moreover, behind the mihtary successes of 
Great Britain^and not only on the French 
front, but in the East also — stood always the 
deadly pressure of the British blockade. When 
after the capture of the Hindenburg positions, 
the line indicating "prisoners," on that chart 
at G.H.Q., a reduced copy of which will be 
found at the end of this book, leapt up to a 
height for which the wall in the room of the 
Director of Operations could hardly find space, 
it meant not only victory over Germany in the 
field, but also the disintegration of German 
morale at home; owing first and foremost to 
that deadly watch which the British Navy, 
supported during the last year of the war by 
the American embargo, had kept over the seas 
of the world, to Germany's undoing, since the 
opening of the struggle. The final victory of 
the Allies when it came was thus in a special 
sense Great Britain's victory, achieved both 
by her mastery of the sea, and the military 
expansion forced upon her by the German 
attack; conditioned, of course, by the whole 


earlier history of the war, in which France had 
led the van and borne the brunt, and im- 
mensely facilitated by the "splendid American 
adventure," to use the phrase of an American. 
For to show that, in a strictly military sense, 
the British and Dominion Armies, backed by 
the British Navy, brought the war to a suc- 
cessful end — a simple matter of figures and 
dates — is not all, or nearly all. The American 
intervention, and especially the marvellous 
speeding-up of American action, from March 
to the end of the war, quite apart from the 
brilliant promise of America's first appearances 
in the field, had an effect upon Europe — Great 
Britain, France, Italy — akin to that which the 
American climate and atmosphere produces 
on the visitor from this side of the Atlantic. 
It breathed new life into everything, and es- 
pecially into the heart of France, the chief 
sufferer by three years of atrocious war. As 
weary and devastated France watched the 
American stream of eager and high-hearted 
youth, flowing from Bordeaux eastwards, col- 
umn after column, regiment after regiment, of 
men admirable in physique, fearless in danger, 
and full of a laughing and boundless confidence 
in America's power to help, and resolve to win 
— at last it seemed that the long horror of the 


war must be indeed coming to an end. "Three 
thousand miles!" said the French villager or 
townsman to himself, as he turned out to 
see them pass — "they have come three thou- 
sand miles to beat the Boche. And America 
is the richest country in the world — and there 
are a hundred millions of them." Hope rose 
into flood, and with it fresh courage to endure. 

Nor was the effect less marked on the Brit- 
ish nation, which had not known invasion, 
and on the British Army, for all its faith in 
itself. The rapid growth of American strength 
in France from March onward in response to 
the call of the Allies, provided indeed a moral 
support to the two older armies, which was of 
incalculable value and "influenced the fighting 
qualities of both; while the knowledge of these 
mounting reserves enabled the Allied Com- 
manders to take risks which otherwise could 
hardly have been faced." I am quoting a 
British military authority of high rank. 

It was at Metz that — outside Paris — I first 
came in contact with this "America in France," 
which History will mark on her coming page 
with all the emphasis that belongs to new 
chapters in the ever-broadening tale of man. 
It was in the shape of some "Knights of Col- 
umbus," pausing at Metz for a night on their 


way to Coblenz. We only exchanged a few 
words on the steps of the hotel, but I had time 
to feel the mterest and the strangeness of this 
American Catholicism in Europe, following in 
the track of war, and looking with its New 
World eyes at those old, old towns, those an- 
cient churches in which American Catholics 
were at home, yet not at home. At Strasbourg 
I saw no Americans that I can remember. 
But our arrival at Nancy at midnight, very 
weary after a long day in the car, during which 
we had missed our way badly at least once, 
is linked in my recollection with the appari- 
tion of two young American officers just as 
we were being told for the third time that 
there was no room in the hotel to which we 
had driven up. Should we really have to 
sleep in the car.^^ There seemed to be not a 
single vacant bedroom in Nancy; and there 
had been snow showers during the day ! But 
these two Americans heard from our French 
Lieutenant that there were two English ladies 
in the car, and they came forward at once, 
offering their rooms. Luckily we found shel- 
ter elsewhere; but I shall not soon forget the 
kind readiness of the two young men, and the 
thrill of the whole scene. There we stood in 
the beautiful Place Stanislas, that workmen 


from Versailles built for the father-in-law of 
Louis Quinze. A flickering moonlight touched 
the gilding of the famous grilles that shut in 
the square; and the only light in the wide 
space seemed to come from this one hotel 
taken by the American authorities for the use 
of their oflBcers and Red Cross workers passing 
to and from the Rhine. When that square was 
built, George Washington was a youth of 
twenty, and after one hundred and seventy 
years it stood within the war-zone of an Ameri- 
can Army, which had crossed the Atlantic to 
fight in Europe ! 

Next day we spent entirely in the American 
sector, between Nancy and Toul, where Ameri- 
can road directions and sign-boards, and fine, 
newly-built camps and depots for the American 
forces met us in all directions. A military 
policeman from a coloured regiment put us 
into the right road for St. Mihiel after leaving 
Toul — a strongly-built, bronzed fellow, deal- 
ing with the stream of military and civil traflSc 
at a cross roads in Eastern France with per- 
fect ease and sang-froid. The astonishment 
and interest of this American occupation of a 
country so intensely and intimately national, 
so little concerned in ordinary times with any 
other life than its own as France, provincial 


France above all, never ceased to hold me as 
we drove on and on through the American 
sector; especially when darkness and moon- 
light returned, and again and again as we 
passed through wrecked villages where a few 
chinks of light here and there showed a scat- 
tered billet or two, the American military 
policeman on duty would emerge from the 
shadows, tall, courteous, seK-possessed, to 
answer a question, or show the way, and we 
left him behind, apparently the only human 
being under the French night, in sole posses- 
sion of the ruins round him. 

But before darkness fell, during the central 
part of the day, we had crossed the southern 
lines of the convergent American attack on St. 
Mihiel. Trenches and wire-fields and artillery 
positions had all belonged to the French bat- 
tle-zone before the Americans took them over, 
and there had been fierce fighting here by the 
French in 1915. But for three years the posi- 
tion had changed but httle, till the newly- 
formed First American Army undertook in 
September the clearing of the Salient. 

We left the car near the village of Beau- 
mont, and walked to the brow of the low ridge 
from which the American attack started. 
Standing among what had been the tranchees 


de depart, with the ruins of the village of 
Seichprey below us to the right, we had be- 
fore us the greater part of the American battle- 
field — ^Thiaucourt in the far north-east; the 
ridge of VigneuUes, which had been the meet- 
ing-point of the converging American attacks 
coming both from the north-west and the south- 
east; while in the near foreground rose the 
once heavily fortified Mont Sec. The Ameri- 
can troops went over the parapet at five 
o'clock on the morning of September 12th, 
and by the morning of the 13th their forces 
had met at VigneuUes, and the Salient, with its 
perpetual threat to the French line, had dis- 
appeared. In three more days the Heights of 
the Meuse had been cleared, and the foremost 
Americans were already under the fire of the 
fortified zone protecting Metz. 

It was a brilliant but happily not a costly 
victory. Von Gallwitz, the German Com- 
mander, had probably already determined on 
retirement, when the American attack fore- 
stalled him. So that the American troops 
with certain French units supporting them 
achieved a great result with small losses; and 
as the first battle of an independent American 
Army the operation must always remain one 
of extraordinary interest and importance, even 


though, in British mihtary opinion, the palm 
of difficulty and of sacrifice must be given 
rather to the splendid fighting on the Marne 
in June and July, when the Americans were 
still under French direction, or to the admirable 
performance of the two American divisions, 
the 27th and the 30th, serving under Sir 
Henry Rawlinson, a fortnight after St. Mihiel, 
on the Hindenburg line. "The original at- 
tack," at St. Mihiel, says one of the keenest 
of British military observers — -"was carried 
out with extraordinary dash by very eager and 
physically magnificent soldiers." Possibly, he 
adds, a more seasoned army — the American 
troops had only had six raonths' experience in 
the fighting line ! — might have turned the 
effects of a successful action to greater military 
advantage than was the case at St. Mihiel. 
The British or French critic, mindful of the 
bitter lessons of four years of war, is inclined 
to make the same criticism of most of the 
American operations of last year, except the 
fighting on the Marne in June and July, when 
French caution and experience found a wonder- 
ful complement in the splendid fighting quali- 
ties of the American infantry. "But" — adds 
one of them — "undoubtedly the American 
Command was learning very rapidly,'' What 


an army the American Army would have been, 
if the war had lasted through this year ! The 
qualities of the individual soldier, drawn many 
of them from districts among the naturally 
richest in the world, together with the vast 
resources in men and wealth of the nation 
behind them, and the mastery of the lessons 
of modern war which was already promised 
by the American Command, during the six 
months' campaign of 1918 — above all, the 
comparative freshness of the American effort 
— would, no doubt, have made the United 
States Army the leading force among the 
Allies, had the war been prolonged. That is 
one line of speculation, and an interesting one. 
Another, less profitable, asks: ''Could the 
Allies have won without America?" The 
answer I have heard most commonly given 
is: "Probably yes, considering, especially, the 
disintegration we now know to have been 
going on in Germany, and the cumulative 
effects of the British blockade. But it would 
have taken at least six months more fighting, 
the loss of thousands more precious and irre- 
placeable lives, and the squandering of vast 
additional wealth in the bottomless waste of 

Thank God, we did not win without America ! 


The effects, the far-reaching effects, of Amer- 
ica's intervention, of her comradeship in the 
field of suffering and sacrifice with the free 
nations of old Europe, are only now beginning 
to show themselves above the horizon. They 
will be actively and, as at least the men and 
women of faith among us believe, beneficently 
at work, when this generation has long passed 




It was late when we left Verdun, on the 
afternoon of the day which saw us at its be- 
ginning on the southern edge of the St. Mihiel 
battle-field, and the winter daylight had passed 
into darkness before we began to run through 
a corner of the Argonne, on our way to St. 
Menehould and Chalons, passing by the wholly 
ruined village of Clermont in Argonne. The 
forest ran past us, a wintry fairyland, dimly 
lit by our quickly moving lamps, and appar- 
ently impenetrable beyond their range, an 
optical effect, however, that may be produced 
in darkness by a mere fringe of trees along the 
roadside. But I knew while I watched the 
exquisite effects of brown and silver, produced 
by the succession of tall, pale trunks rising 
above the lace-work of the underwood, as 
scene after scene pressed upon us out of the 
dark, that we were indeed in a forest country, 
only some twenty miles away from the scene 



of General Pershing's drive at the end of last 
September, when he achieved on the first day 
an advance of seven miles through difficult 
country, while General Gouraud was pushing 
forward in Champagne; and I found myself 
speculating in the dark on the many discus- 
sions I had heard both among English and 
Americans of that advance, and of the checks 
and difficulties which, as I suppose is now 
generally admitted, followed on the first bril- 
liant operations. 

During the last few weeks further informa- 
tion has been forthcoming about the Meuse- 
Argonne battle, as the American operations 
between the Argonne and the Meuse from 
September 26th to November 11th are appar- 
ently to be known. But a good deal of ob- 
scurity still hangs over the details of the fight- 
ing. In the British Army I came across the 
very general belief that the staff and transport 
work of the advance had been — in the words 
of a well-known historian of the war — "as 
was natural with a new army, scarcely ade- 
quate to the fighting qualities of the troops 
engaged." And I often heard regret expressed 
that the American Command had not been 
more willing to avail itself of the staff experi- 
ence of either or both of the older armies. 


which might — so the British or French spec- 
tator thinks — ^have lessened the casualty lists 
among extraordinarily gallant but inexperi- 
enced troops . * ' Replacements fresh from home 
were put into exhausted divisions with little 
time for training," says General Pershing's re- 
port. And "some of the divisions were fight- 
ing their first battle." They were faced also 
at the beginning of the advance by some of 
the best remaining German troops. When one 
thinks of all the long and bitter training in 
the field that went to the perfecting of French 
or British staff work, and then of the diflicult 
nature of the ground over which the First 
American Army had to make its way, one can 
only feel the deepest sympathy for the losses 
sustained by the fresh and eager troops. The 
Argonne forest itself had long been recognised 
as impenetrable to frontal attack, and on the 
Argonne side of the American twenty-mile 
front, along the western edge of the valley of 
the Aire, the ground is still heavily wooded 
and often very hilly. As one of the ablest 
military critics, himself a soldier of great dis- 
tinction, expressed it to me: *'Foch had set 
the Americans an uncommonly hard task!" 

But if there was some failure in those mat- 
ters where neither bravery nor natural intelli- 


gence can take the place of long training, and 
experience in the field, there was no failure in 
ardour or in spirit. In spite of heavy losses. 
General Pershing never failed to push on. 
Starting from a line on the northern edge of 
the great Verdun battle-field, Montfaucon, the 
German headquarters during the Verdun fight- 
ing of 1916, was captured in three days. 
Then came severe fighting against fierce coun- 
ter-attacks, and great difficulties with trans- 
port over shell-torn ground and broken roads, 
difficulties increased by bad weather. But 
on October 4th the gallant attack was renewed, 
and by October 10th, owing to the combined 
effects of the British drive in the north and the 
pressure on both sides of the Argonne, from 
General Gouraud on the west and the Ameri- 
cans on the east, the enemy fell back and the 
famous forest was cleared. 

The third and last phase of the fighting 
began on the 23rd of October. The enemy 
was now weakening rapidly along the whole of 
his line. For while the American Army had 
been stubbornly fighting its way north from 
Varennes to Grandpre, where it stood on No- 
vember 1st, the British Armies, in the great 
- Battles of Cambrai-St. Quentin, Ypres, and 
Courtrai, had not only captured the Hinden- 


burg line and some fifty thousand prisoners, 
but had brought about — without fighting — 
the evacuation of Laon and the retreat of the 
Germans to the fine of the Aisne; the German 
withdrawal, also, to the Scheldt, involving the 
freeing of Lille and the great industrial dis- 
trict of France; and finally, in concert with 
Belgian, French, and some American units, 
the clearing of the Belgian coast, and the re- 
covery of Ostend, Zeebrugge and Bruges. 
The end, indeed, was rushing on. Co-operation 
was everywhere maintained, and blow fol- 
lowed blow. ''During this period" (6th to 
31st October), says the British Commander- 
in-Chief, "our Allies had been pushing for- 
ward steadily on both sides of the Argonne. 
The enemy was held by their attacks on his 
southern flank, while to the north the British 
offensive was driving forward rapidly behind 
his right." 

Then, with November, the British Army, 
in the Battle of the Sambre, "struck at and 
broke the enemy's last important lateral com- 
munications, divided his forces into two parts 
on either side of the Ardennes, and initiated a 
pursuit which only stopped with the Armis- 
tice." About one hundred thousand prisoners 
had been taken by the British Armies since 


September 26th. "Victory, indeed," in Gen- 
eral Gouraud's phrase, "had changed her 
camp !" Led by her, the British, French, and 
American Armies streamed east and north 
through the few days that remained, pursuing 
a beaten and demoraHsed enemy. The final 
American advance was begun on November 
1st, and on November 7th patrols of the 42nd 
Division reached the Meuse at Wadelincourt, 
opposite Sedan; while the Fifth Division was 
in the Forest of Woevre, and the 90th Division 
had captured Stenay. 

Some very interesting figures have lately 
been given as to the forces under General 
Pershing's command. Altogether some 770,- 
000 men seem to have been employed — ^both 
east and west of the Meuse — of whom 138,000 
were French. Forty-six German divisions, 
amounting, according to the American esti- 
mate, to about 350,000 men, opposed the 
American advance. The casualties are given 
as 115,000— among them 26,000 killed*— for 
the American troops, and 7,000 for the French. 
The enemy casualties are estimated at 75,000, 
and 16,000 prisoners were taken. 

One incident, relatively unimportant, but 
wonderfully picturesque, is sure to find a 

* According to the latest estimate I have seen. 


place in the American song and story of the 
future. It was during the rapid advance of 
the last days, when the far vision of the Rhine 
was already beckoning forward the victorious 
Allies, and giving wings to the feet of youth. 
On the night of November 3rd, after a success- 
ful day, the 9th and 23rd Infantry of the 
Second Division found themselves in column 
formation on the road leading north to Beau- 
mont, a small town south of Sedan. The 
way lay open, and they took it. They marched 
on and on through the night, throwing out 
the usual advance guard and flank patrols, but 
otherwise unprotected. By all the rules of 
war the brigade should have been cut off. 
But in this twilight-time — this Gdtterddmmer' 
ung of the end, conditions were abnormal, and 
the two regiments marched on through forest 
country, right through the enemy lines towards 
the Meuse, for about eight kilometres, cap- 
turing machine-gunners asleep at their guns, 
and rounding up parties of the enemy on the 
roads, till in the early dawn they reached a 
farm where German officers were sitting round 
tables with lights burning — only to spring to 
their feet in dismay, as the Americans sur- 
rounded them. The cold autumn morning — 
the young bronzed faces emerging from the 


darkness — the humbled and astonished foe: 
surely Old and New, Europe and America, 
were never brought together in a moment 
more attractive to the story-teller. A touch 
of romance amid the tragedy and the glory ! 
But how welcome it is ! 

The full history, however, of the Argonne 
fighting will probably not be accurately known 
for some little time to come. No such ob- 
scurity hangs over the glorious fighting on 
the Marne, through the scenes of which I 
passed both on the railway journey from Paris 
to Metz, and in motoring from Chalons to 
Paris on our return. Colonel Frederick Palm- 
er's book* gives an account of these operations, 
which, it seems to me, ought to be universally 
read in the Allied countries. The crusading 
courage of whole-hearted youth, the contempt 
of death and suffering, the splendid and tire- 
less energy which his pages describe, if they 
touch other English hearts as deeply as they 
have touched mine, will go a long way towards 
that spiritual bond between our nations which 
alone can make real and lasting things out of 
Leagues and Treaties. 

It was on our way from Rheims to Paris 
after our drive through the Champagne battle- 

* America in France, by Lt.-Col. Frederick Palmer, S. C, U. S. A. 


field that we passed rapidly through the places 
and scenes which Colonel Palmer describes. 

As we approached Rheims about midday, a 
thick white fog rolled suddenly and silently 
over the chalk uplands that saw General 
Gouraud's campaign of last September and 
October. We ran through it, past a turning 
to Moronvilliers on the left — famous name ! — 
and within a short distance of Nogent I'Ab- 
besse, the fort which did most to wreck Rheims 
Cathedral, and so down in a dreary semi- 
darkness into Rheims itself. 

Thirty-five years ago I was in Rheims for 
the first and only time, before this visit. It 
was in September, not long before the vintage. 
The town and the country-side were steeped 
in sunlight, and in the golden riches of Mother 
Earth. The air indeed, as it shimmered in 
the heat above the old town, and the hill 
slopes where the famous vineyards lie, seemed 
to "drop fatness." Wealth, wine, the body 
and its pleasures, the cunning handicraft and 
inherited lore of hundreds of years and many 
generations seemed to take visible shape in 
the fine old town, in its vast wine-cellars, and 
in the old inn where we stayed with its Gar- 
gantuan bill of fare, and its ahonnes from the 
town, ruddy, full-fleshed citizens, whose 


achievements in the way of eating and drink- 
ing we watched with amazement. Even the 
cathedral seemed to me to breathe the rich- 
ness and gaiety of this central France; the 
sculptures of the fagade with its famous 
"laughing angel" expressed rather the joy of 
living, of fair womanhood, of smiling maternity, 
and childhood, of the prime of youth and the 
satisfied dignity of age, than those austerer 
lessons of Christianity which speak from 
Beauvais, or Chartres or Rouen. But how 
beautiful it all was, how full, wherever one 
looked, of that old spell of la douce France! 
And now ! Under the pall of the fog we drove 
through the silent ruin of the streets, still on 
their feet, so to speak, as at Verdun, but eye- 
less, roofless, and dead, scarcely a house habita- 
ble, though here and there one saw a few signs 
of patching up and returning habitation. 
And in the great square before the Cathedral 
instead of the old comeliness, the old stir of 
provincial and commercial life — ruin! — only in- 
tensified by a group of motors, come to bring 
distinguished Sunday visitors from Paris and 
the Conference, to see as much of it as an 
hour's wait would enable them to see. There 
in front of the great portal stood the Prime 
Minister of England and the Cardinal- Arch- 


bishop — heroic Cardinal Lugon, who, under 
the daily hail of fire, had never left his church 
or his flock so long as there was a flock in 
Rheims to shepherd. And above the figure 
of the Cardinal soared the great West Front, 
blackened and scarred by fire, the summits 
of the towers lost in mist, and behind them, 
the wrecked and roofless church. 

The destruction of irreplaceable values, other 
than human life, caused by the war, is summed 
up, as far as France is concerned, in this 
West Front of Rheims; so marred in all its 
beautiful detail, whether of glass or sculpture, 
yet still so grand, so instinct still with the 
pleading powers of the spirit. The "pity of 
it!" and at the same time, the tenacious un- 
dying life of France — all the long past behind 
her, the unconquerable future before her — 
these are the ideas one carries away from 
Rheims, hot in the heart. Above all, for the 
moment, the pity of it — the horror of this 
huge outrage spreading from the North Sea 
to Switzerland, of what the French call so 
poignantly nos mines — symbolised, once for 
all, by the brutal fate of this poem in stone, 
built up by the French generations, which is 
Rheims Cathedral. And as we passed away 
from Rheims, through the country roads and 


the bombarded villages of the Tardenois, an- 
other district of old France, which up to May 
last year was still intact, with all its farms and 
village and country houses, and is now but 
little different from Artois and Picardy, I 
found myself thinking with a passionate anx- 
iety, almost, of the Conference sitting in 
Paris and of its procedure. ''France is right 
— is right, ^^ I caught myself saying for the 
hundredth time. "Before anything else — jus- 
tice to her ! — ^protection and healing for her ! 
Justice on the criminal nation, that has rav- 
aged and trampled on her, 'like a wild beast 
out of the wood,' and healing for wounds and 
sufferings that no one can realise who has not 
witnessed for himself the state of her richest 
provinces. It was she who offered her breast 
to the first onslaught of the enemy, she who 
fought for us all when others had still their 
armies to make, she who has endured most 
and bled most, heavily as others — Britain, 
Italy, Belgium, Serbia — have endured. Her 
claim must come first — and let those in Eng- 
^land and America who wish to realise why 
"icyme and see,^' 
We drove down diagonally through the 
[arne salient as it was last summer after the 
rerman break-through on the Marne, to Dor- 


mans and so across the river. In the darken- 
ing afternoon we passed over the Montagne 
de Rheims, and crossed the valley of the Ardre, 
near the spot where the 19th British Division, 
in the German attack of last June, put up so 
splendid a jfight in defence of an important 
position commanding the valley — the Mon- 
tagne de Bligny — that the General of the Fifth 
French Army, General de Mitry, under whose 
orders they were, wrote to General Haig: 
"They have enabled us to establish a barrier 
against which the hostile waves have beaten 
and shattered themselves. This none of the 
French who witnessed it will ever forget." 

For if the Montagne de Bligny had gone, 
the French position on the Montagne de 
Rheims, south-west of Rheims, and the Cathe- 
dral city itself would have been endangered, 
no less than by the attack on the north-east 
of the town, which General Gouraud a month 
later pinned to earth. And when we reached 
Dormans, on the south bank, turning west- 
ward to Chateau Thierry, we were on ground 
no less vital, where in July the American troops 
in General Pershing's words wrote ''one of the 
most brilliant pages in our military annals." 
The story is well known. The Germans were 
attempting to cross the river in force between 


Dormans and Chateau Thierry, and then to 
thrust their way down the valley of the Sur- 
mehn to Montmirail and the great main road 
to Paris, which passes through that town. 
A single regiment of the 3rd American Division 
held up the enemy, on the river bank to the 
east of Mezy, fighting at the same time east 
and west against German parties who had 
managed to get a footing at other points on 
the south side, and finally counter-attacking, 
throwing two German divisions into complete 
confusion, and capturing six hundred prison- 
ers. No episode in the war is more likely to 
ring in the memory of after-times. "In the 
bend of the Marne at the mouth of the Sur- 
melin," says Colonel Palmer, "not a German 
was able to land. In all twenty boats full of 
the enemy were sunk or sent drifting harm- 
lessly down the stream." To the east of Mezy 
also, four American platoons did incredible 
things in defence of the Paris-Nancy railway. 
"They were not going to yield that track 
alive— that was the simple fact." And their 
losses were appalling. In the second platoon 
of the four engaged, all ) were killed except 
three who were wounded, and half of the third 
were down before they had driven the enemy 
from the embankment. The American graves 


lie all on the south side of the line — the Ger- 
man on the north. ''We actually took over 
four hundred prisoners between the railroad 
and the river — the 6th German Grenadier 
Regiment was annihilated. ..." And the 
Germans never reached the Surmelin valley, 
or that Montmirail road on which they had 
set their hearts. "The deciding factor," says 
Colonel Palmer, "was the unflinching courage 
of our men, and their aggressive spirit." And 
the action, small as were the numbers engaged, 
could not have been bettered. "It is a mili- 
tary classic." 

Over this hard-fought ground, consecrated 
by the graves of men who had thus bravely 
— ^thus gaily — laid down their lives for a cause 
of which they had no doubt, we ran on to 
Chateau Thierry, and that western flank of 
the Marne salient, where in June, while the 
Germans were still pressing south, and in 
July when Foch turned upon his trapped foe, 
the Americans, most of whom were for the first 
time in real battle, bore themselves to the 
astonishment and admiration of all the watch- 
ing Allies. In June especially, when matters 
were at their worst. The capture of Bour- 
esches, and Belleau Wood, the capture of 
Vaux on July 1st, the gallant help which an 


American machine-gun battalion gave the 
French in covering the French retreat across 
the bridge at Chateau Thierry, before it was 
blown up, and foiling the German attempts 
to cross, and the German move towards Paris, 
were perhaps, writes a British military au- 
thority, ''the most splendid service, from a 
military standpoint, the Americans rendered 
to the Allied Cause. It was certainly the first 
occasion on which they really made themselves 
felt, and brought home to the Germans the 
quaHty of the opposition they were likely to 
encounter from the American Armies." 

As we approached Chateau Thierry, the fog 
had cleared away, and the night was not 
dark. On our railway journey to Metz a 
week earlier, we had seen the picturesque old 
place, with Hill 204 behind it, and the ruins 
of Vaux to the north-west, in daylight, from 
the south bank of the river. Now daylight 
had gone, but as we neared the Marne, the 
high ground on the curving north bank, with 
its scattered lights and their twinkling reflec- 
tions in the water, made still a dimly beautiful 
setting for the much injured but still hving 
and busy town. We crossed the temporary 
bridge into the crowded streets, and then as 
we had come a long way, we were glad to 


dip for tea and a twenty minutes' break into 
an inn crowded with Americans. Handsome, 
friendly fellows ! I wished devoutly that it 
were not so late, and Paris not so far away, 
that I might have spent a long evening in 
their company. But we were all too soon 
on the road again for Meaux and Paris, pass- 
ing slowly through the ruined streets of Vaux, 
with Bouresches and Belleau Wood to our 
right, and behind us the great main road from 
Soissbns to Chateau Thierry, for the com- 
mand of which in its northern sector, the 
American divisions under General Mangin, 
and in its southern portion those commanded 
by General Degoutte, had fought so stoutly 
last July. Altogether seven American divi- 
sions, or close upon 200,000 men, were con- 
cerned in Foch's counter-attack, which began 
on July 18th; and as General Pershing notes 
with just pride: "The place of honour in the 
thrust towards Soissons on the 18th was given 
to our 1st and 2nd divisions, in company with 
chosen French divisions. These two divisions 
captured 7,000 prisoners and over 100 guns." 

What one may call the "state entry" of 
America into the war had thus been made, 
and Germany had been given full warning of 
what this new element in the struggle must 


ultimately mean, were it given time to develop. 
And during all these weeks of June and July, 
British and American ships, carrying American 
soldiers, came in a never-ending succession 
across the Atlantic. An American Army of 
5,000,000 men was in contemplation, and, 
"Why," said the President at Baltimore in 
April, ''hmit it to 5,000,000.?" While every 
day the British Navy kept its grim hold on 
the internal life of Germany, and every day 
was bringing the refreshed and reorganised 
British Army, now at the height of its strik- 
ing power, nearer to the opening on August 8th 
of that mighty and continuous advance which 
ended the war. 



April 15th. 

In these April days Sir Douglas Haig's 
latest Despatch, dated the 21st March, 1919 
— the first anniversary of those black days of 
last year ! — has just been published in all the 
leading English newspapers. It is divided 
into three parts: ''The Advance into Ger- 
many," "Features of the War," and ''My 
Thanks to Commanders and StaflFs." It is 
on the second part in particular that public 
attention has eagerly fastened. Nothing could 
well be more interesting or more important. 
For it contains the considered judgment of 
the British Commander-in-Chief on the war 
as a whole, so far, at least, as Great Britain 
is concerned. The strong and reticent man 
who is responsible for it broke through the 
limitations of ofiicial expression on two occa- 
sions only during the war: in the spring of 
1917, in that famous and much criticised in- 
terview which he gave to certain French 
journalists, an incident, by the way, on which 
this Despatch throws a good deal of light; 



and in the impassioned Order of last April, 
when, like Joflfre on the Marne, he told his 
country that England had her back to the 

But here, for the first time, the mind on 
which for three and a half years depended the 
military fortunes, and therewith the future 
destiny of the British Empire, reveals itself 
with much fullness and freedom, so far as the 
moment permits. The student of the war 
cannot read these paragraphs too closely, and 
we may be sure that every paragraph in them 
will be a text for comment and illustration in 
the history schools of the future. The De- 
spatch, moreover, is full of new information 
on points of detail, and gives figures and statis- 
tics which have never yet been made public. 
There are not, however, many persons outside 
the Armies who will give themselves to the 
close study of a long military despatch. Let 
me try, then, before I wind up these letters of 
mine, to bring out very shortly both some of 
the fresh points of view and the new detail 
which make the Despatch so interesting. It 
will be seen, I think, that the general account 
given in my preceding letters of British con- 
clusions on the war, when tested by the De- 
spatch, may still hold its own. 


In the first place, the Field Marshal dwells 
in words of which the subdued bitterness is 
unmistakable, on Great Britain's unprepared- 
ness for the war. "We were deficient in both 
trained men and military material, and, what 
IS more important, had no machinery ready 
by which either men or material could be pro- 
duced in anything like the necessary quanti- 
ties." It took us, therefore, "two and a half 
years to reach the high-water mark of our 
infantry strength," and by that time we had 
lost thousands of lives, which, had we been 
better prepared, need never have been lost. 

And, moreover, our unpreparedness, and the 
fact that we were not able to take a full share 
in the war till the summer of 1916, terribly 
wasted the man-power of France. "The ex- 
cessive burden," says Marshal Haig, "thrown 
upon the gallant Army of France during that 
period caused them losses the effect of which 
has been felt all through the war and directly 
influenced its length." Meanwhile, what might 
have been "the effect of British intervention 
on a larger scale, in the earlier stages of the 
war, is shown by what was actually achieved 
by our original Expeditionary Force." 

Who was responsible for this unprepared- 


Sir Douglas Haig does not raise the ques- 
tion. But those of us who remember the 
poUtical history of the years from 1906 to 
1914 can hardly be in doubt as to the answer. 
It was the Radical and anti-militarist group 
of the Liberal party then in power, who every 
year fought the Naval and Mihtary Estimates 
— especially the latter — ^point by point, and 
stubbornly hampered the most necessary mili- 
tary provision, on whom, little as they intended 
or foresaw it, a tragic responsibility for the 
prolongation of the war, and the prodigal loss 
of life it involved, must always rest. Lord 
Haldane, indeed during his years of office as 
the War Minister of the Liberal Government, 
made a gallant fight for the Army. To him 
we owe the Expeditionary Force, the Terri- 
torials, the organisation of the General Staff, 
the Officers' Training Corps; and without his 
reforms our case would have been black in- 
deed when the storm broke. No one has re- 
pelled more indignantly the common Tory 
charges against Lord Haldane than Sir Douglas 
Haig himself. But during his years at the 
War Office Lord Haldane was fighting against 
heavy odds, attacked on the one hand by the 
upholders of Lord Roberts's scheme, in which 
neither he nor the General Staff believed, and 


under perpetual sniping on the other from the 
extreme section of his own party. The marvel 
is that he was able to do what he did ! 

Granting, however, the unpreparedness of 
England, what a wonderful story it is on which 
Sir Douglas Haig looks back ! First, the neces- 
sary opening stage of this or any war — i. e., a 
preliminary phase of manoeuvring for position, 
on both sides, which came to an end with "the 
formation of continuous trench lines from the 
North Sea to the Swiss frontier." Then, when 
British military power had developed, followed 
"the period of real struggle," in which the 
main forces of the two belligerent Armies were 
pitted against each other in close and costly 
combat — i. e., "the wearing-down battle" 
which must go on in this war, as in all wars 
where large and equal forces are engaged, till 
one or the other combatant begins to weaken. 
And, finally, the last stage, when the weaken- 
ing combatant stakes "on a supreme effort 
what reserves remain to him," and must abide 
by the issue. Germany staked her last re- 
serves in the "great sortie" of her beleaguered 
Armies, which lasted from April to July of 
1918. She lost the game, and the end, which 
was inevitable, followed quickly. 

For the British Commander-in-Chief insists 


that we must look upon the war as a whole. 
In the earlier part of the wearing-down battle 
which occupied its central years, we did what 
we could till our new armies were ready, and 
without us France could not have held out. 
Without the British Navy, in particular, the 
war must have collapsed in a month. But 
the main brunt of the struggle on land had to 
be borne — and was superbly borne — by France 
up to the summer of 1916, when we entered 
on our full strength. Thenceforward the chief 
strain lay on the constantly developing Armies 
of Great Britain. From July, 1916, to the 
Armistice, Sir Douglas Haig bids us conceive 
the long succession of battles fought by the 
Allies in France as ''one great and continuous 
engagement." "Violent crises of fighting" 
within such a conflict may appear individually 
as ''indecisive battles." But the issue is all 
the time being slowly and inexorably decided. 
And as soon as the climax is reached, and the 
weakening of one side or the other begins, 
nothing but the entry of some new and unex- 
pected factor can avert the inevitable end. 
When Russia broke down in 1917, it looked for 
a time as though such a new factor had ap- 
peared. It prolonged the war, and gave Ger- 
many a fresh lease of fighting strength, but it 


was not sufficient to secure victory. She did 
her utmost with it in 1918, and when she 
failed, the older factors that had been at work, 
through all the deadly progress of the pre- 
ceding years of the war, were seen at last for 
the avengers, irresistible and final, that they 
truly were. "The end of the war," says the 
Commander-in-Chief, "was neither sudden, 
nor should it have been unexpected. The 
rapid collapse of Germany's military powers 
in the latter half of 1918 was the logical out- 
come of the fighting of the previous two years. 
Attrition and blockade are the two words that 
explain the final victory. As to the cost of 
that victory, the incredible heart-rending cost. 
Sir Douglas Haig maintains that, given the 
vast range of the struggle, and the vital issues 
on which it turned — given also the unpre- 
paredness of England, and the breakdown of 
Russia, the casualties of the war could not 
have been less. The British casualties in all 
theatres of war are given as 3,000,000 — 2,500,- 
OCO on the Western front; the French at 4,800,- 
000 ; the Italians, including killed and wounded 
only, 1,400,000; a total of nine million, two 
hundred thousand. On the enemy side, the 
Field Marshal gives the German and Austro- 
Hungarian losses at approximately eleven mil- 


lions. And to these have to be added the 
Russian casualties before 1917, a figure run- 
ning into millions; the Serbian, Roumanian, 
and Turkish losses, and, lastly, the Ameri- 

Some seven million young men at least have 
perished from this pleasant earth, which is 
now again renewing its spring life in beauty 
and joy, and millions of others will bear the 
physical marks of the struggle to their graves. 
Is there anything to console us for such a 
spectacle? The reply of the British Com- 
mander-in-Chief is that "the issues involved 
in this stupendous struggle were far greater 
than those concerned in any other war in re- 
cent history. Our existence as an Empire, 
and civilisation itself as it is understood by 
the free Western nations was at stake. Men 
fought as they had never fought before." 

"Go, stranger, and tell the Lacedeemonians 
that we lie here, obedient to their will." So 
the Greek epitaph that all men know. In the 
same spirit, for country and home, for freedom 
and honour — at the Will of that Power by 
Whom "the most ancient heavens are fresh 
and strong" — these fighters of our day laid 
down their ardent and obedient lives. There 
is but one way in which we can truly honour 


them. A better world, as their eternal me- 
morial: — shame on us if we cannot build it! 

May %Oih, 
Since the preceding paragraphs were written, 
the French General Staff has published an il- 
luminating analysis of those military condi- 
tions in the concluding months of the war 
which compelled the German Command and 
the German Government to sue for an Armis- 
tice. The German proclamation, when the 
conclusion of the Armistice allowed those 
armies to retreat, proclaimed them "uncon- 
quered." Our own Commander-in-Chief de- 
clares, it will be remembered, on the other 
hand, that the fighting along the front of the 
British Armies from November 1st to Novem- 
ber 11th had "forced on the enemy a disor- 
derly retreat. Thereafter he was neither capa- 
ble of accepting nor refusing battle. The 
utter confusion of his troops, the state of his 
railways, congested with abandoned trains, the 
capture of huge quantities of rolling-stock and 
material — all showed that our attack had been 
decisive. . . . The strategic plan of the Allies 
had been realised with a completeness rarely 
seen in war. When the Armistice was signed, 
his defensive powers had already been defin- 


itely destroyed. A continuance of hostilities 
could only have meant disaster to the Ger- 
man Armies, and the armed invasion of Ger- 

To this statement from the leader of those 
armies to whom it fell to strike the last de- 
cisive blows in the struggle may now be added 
the testimony of the admirably served Intelli- 
gence Department of the French General Staff, 
as to the precise condition of the German 
Armies before the Armistice. "The strategic 
plan of the Allies," of which Sir Douglas Haig 
speaks, was the supreme business of Marshal 
Foch, and the facts and figures now given 
show how closely the great Frenchman was 
informed and how "completely," to use Mar- 
shal Haig's word, his plans were carried out. 
On the 3rd of October Hindenburg had written 
to Prince Max of Baden, that "as a result . . . 
of our complete inability to fill up the gaps 
caused by the very heavy losses inflicted on 
us during the recent battles, no hope is left 
... of forcing the enemy to make peace." 
How true this was is made plain by the de- 
tails just published. On September 25th — 
that is to say, the day before the British at- 
tack on the Hindenburg line, and the French 
and American attacks east and west of the 


Argonne — the Intelligence Department of the 
French General Staff reported to Marshal 
Foch that since July 15th, in the Marne salient, 
at St. Mihiel, and in the British battles of 
Amiens, Bapaume, and the Scarpe, the enemy 
had engaged 163 divisions. His reserves were 
reduced to 68 divisions — as against 81 in July 
— and of these only 21 were fresh troops. 
The German Une had been shortened by 125 
miles, but so weakened were the German 
Armies, that the same number of divisions had 
to be kept in the line as before the shortening 
— each division representing only some three- 
quarters of its former strength, and 16 divi- 
sions having been broken up to fill the ranks 
in those that remained. 

Following immediately on this report came 
the three converging attacks of the Allies, On 
October 9th the German Army, under British 
pressure, abandoned the whole Hindenburg 
position, and entered upon a general retreat 
from the North Sea to the Meuse. At that 
moment 44 of the German divisions in line 
were not to be depended on for further serious 
fighting, and there were oiily 22 divisions 
available to replace them, of which 15 were of 
inferior quality, holding "quiet" sectors. On 
October 11th the French Intelligence Bureau 
reported that ''it is impossible for the enemy, 


with the forces that he has at present in Hne, 
to stop and face any considerable attack for 
an appreciable time." 

On October 4th, the day after Hindenburg's 
letter to Prince Max, the German Chancellor 
cabled to President Wilson, asking for an Arm- 
istice. Already, on September 2Sth, in the 
very midst of the British attack on the Hin- 
denburg line, and on the morrow of General 
Gouraud's and General Pershing's first ad- 
vances in Champagne and the Argonne, the 
German Command had warned the Chan- 
cellor that this step must be taken, and from 
October 9th onward there was no more heart 
left in the German Armies. The ''prisoners" 
line in the chart,* brought daily up to date 
at the Headquarters of the British Army, 
shows what the demoralisation had become in 
the German ranks. After the British battle 
of the Sambre (November 4th) there were 
practically no reserves left, and Marshal Foch 
had plans in store which, had there been any 
further resistance, must have led to the whole- 
sale capitulation of all that was left of the 
German Armies. 

So in ignominy and shame the German on- 
slaught on the liberties of Europe came — 

* See reproduction. 


militarily — to its bitter end. The long-drawn 
agony of four and a half years was over, and 
the "wearing-out battle" had done its work. 
Now, six months later, we are in the midst of 
that stern Epilogue — in which a leagued 
Europe and America are dictating to Ger- 
many the penalties by which alone she may 
purge her desperate offence. A glance at the 
conditions of Peace published to the world 
on May 11th, the anniversary of the sinking 
of the Lusitania, will form the natural con- 
clusion to this imperfect survey of the last 
and most glorious stage in ''England's Effort." 
But for the moment, let me return to the 
''Features of the War," and Marshal Haig's 
comments on them in his last Despatch. 
Many, many books will be written about them 
in the future ! All I can do here is to single 
out a few of those that seem to be most com- 
monly in the minds of those who are still 
thinking about the war. 

Take, first, the value of cavalry in modern 
battle. In his April Despatch, Sir Douglas 
Haig enters on a strong defence of it — the plea 
of a great cavalry leader. Since the stabilisa- 
tion of the trench system in the West, it has 
been, as we can all remember, a commonplace 


of the newspapers and of private conversa- 
tion that cavaky were played out — a mere 
useless or ornamental excrescence on armies 
that, by the help of tanks and aeroplanes, 
could now excellently do without them. "Not 
at all," replies Sir Douglas Haig. If the Ger- 
man Command had had at their disposal last 
March and April "even two or three well- 
trained cavalry divisions, a wedge might have 
been driven between the French and British 
armies." In any case, the dilEculties of our 
task would have been greatly increased. On 
the other hand, our cavaby were enormously 
useful to us in the same battle. "So great 
indeed became the need for mounted men that 
certain units which had been dismounted were 
hurriedly provided with horses and did splen- 
did service. Frequently when it was impos- 
sible to move forward other troops in time our 
mounted troops were able to fill gaps in our 
line and restore the situation." During the 
long trench battle of the middle years "the 
absence of room for manoeuvre made the im- 
portance of cavalry less apparent." But in 
the last stage of the struggle, when the Ger- 
mans "were falling back in disorganised 
masses," the moral effect of British cavalry 
pressing on the heels of the enemy was "over- 


whelming," and had not the Armistice stopped 
the cavalry advance, it would have turned the 
enemy's disorganised retreat ''into a rout."^ 

This is strong testimony, and will probably 
be stoutly fought by the eager advocates of 
"mechanical contrivances." But Sir Douglas 
Haig stands to it that no form of mechanical 
contrivance can «ver either make the cavalry- 
man useless, or the infantryman, who is "the 
backbone of defence and the spearhead of 
attack," less important. He admits, indeed, 
fully that machine guns, tanks, aeroplanes, 
and motor transport "have given a greater 
driving power to war," and that the country^ 
which possesses most of such things has an 
advantage over its opponents. But he in- 
sists that their only "real function" is to as- 
sist the infantry to get to grips with their 
opponents, and that of themselves "they can- 
not possibly obtain a decision." To imagine 
that tanks and aeroplanes can ever take the 
place of infantry and cavalry is to do these 
marvellous tools themselves a disservice by 
expecting of them more than they can per- 
form. "Only by the rifle and bayonet of the 
infantry can the decisive victory be won." 
For, as the Commander-in-Chief lays down 
no less strongly than this great French col- 


league, Marshal Foch, "this war. has given no 
new principles." But it has greatly compli- 
cated the application of the old. Every new 
invention makes the problem of co-operation 
— of interaction between the diflferent armies 
and services — ^more difficult and more impera- 

As to the artillery history of the war, the 
Field Marshal gives the most amazing figures. 
When in 1916, at the suggestion of Mr. Roose- 
velt, and by the wish of our Government, I 
went through some of our leading munition 
districts, with a view to reporting what was 
being done in them to England's friends in 
America, the great development which started 
from the Munitions Act of 1915 was still only 
in its earlier stages. Everywhere the Govern- 
ment factories were rising with what seemed 
incredible rapidity, and the older works were 
doubling and trebling their output. But the 
output was still far behind the need. By the 
date of the Somme Battle, indeed — in the 
autumn, that is, of the same year — it had risen 
enormously. I may quote my own words in 
England's Effort (October, 1916): "The total 
amount of heavy guns and ammunition manu- 
factured in Great Britain in the first ten months 


of the war would not have kept the British 
bombardment on the Somme going for a single 

And now ? 

On that first day of the Somme Battle, 
July, 1916, says the Despatch, "13,000 tons 
of ammunition were fired by us on the Western 
front. On the Slsf of July, 1917, in the 
Third Battle of Ypres, the British Armies used 
23,000 tons of ammunition,^' Last year, from 
August to November, 700,000 tons of ammuni- 
tion were expended by the British Armies on 
the Western front. On the days of most ac- 
tive fighting 20,000 tons a day was a common 
ration. The supply never failed. In the three 
months' oflFensive of last autumn all the Army 
Commanders had to think of in the matter of 
artillery and ammunition was transport and 
distribution. The amount was unlimited. 
While in the matter of guns, the British 
Army, which on August 4th, 1914, possessed 
486 pieces of different calibres, all told, at the 
time of the Armistice was employing 6,437 
guns and howitzers of all kinds, including the 
heaviest monsters of the battle-field. 

And with this vast increase in material had 
gone perpetual advance in organisation. Artil- 
lery commanders were introduced into all 


armies and corps, with staffs acting under them. 
Hence a greater concentration of brain and 
energy on the special artillery problems — very 
soon justified by results. Science and experi- 
ence had full play, and the continuous artillery 
battle begun on the Somme ended, as it de- 
served to end, "in the defeat of the enemy's 
guns." To that defeat new inventions — or 
the marvellous development of old ones- 
were perpetually tending. Take sound-ranging 
for instance, which, with flash-spotting and 
air photography, has enabled the gunner more 
and more certainly to locate his enemy's gun 
while concealing the position of his own. 
For "the object of a gun or howitzer is to throw 
a projectile to some spot the position of which 
is known,'" The older way of knowing was 
by registration — throwing round after round, 
and by the help of aeroplane or other observa- 
tion of the results, getting nearer and nearer 
to the target till the range was exactly found. 
By this method, not only is the enemy warned, 
but your own position is revealed. The newer 
method aims at surprise — ^the supreme aim of 
modern war. 

"The principle of the location of guns by 
sound," writes an artillery officer, "is simple 
enough. Suppose there are two observers in 


the British lines, one at each end of a long line. 
Bisect this base, and from the middle point 
draw a line at right angles to the base and 
towards the German lines. Now, if a hostile 
gun fires from a position on this line, the sound 
will reach both observers simultaneously. If 
the gun fires from a position to the right of 
the line, the sound will reach the right-hand 
observer first, and vice versa. Then, by 
measuring exactly the time-interval between 
the arrival of the sound at each observation 
post, the bearing to the gun can be calcu- 

"Until quite recently the Germans used 
four human observers, who timed the sound 
intervals with stop watches. The British used 
six microphones of a special type, connected 
electrically with a photographic-recording ap- 
paratus. Instead of stop watches, therefore, 
we used a timing device capable of recording 
the most minute time-intervals with perfect 
precision. The whole system was immeasur- 
ably superior to the German, and at least 
twenty times as accurate, for the British sys- 
tem was absolutely automatic. It recorded 
the arrival of the sound at the various micro- 
phones instantaneously on a permanent rec- 
ord; while the German system, apart from 


its crude method of measuring time, was sub- 
ject to the combined errors of four human 
'microphones.' The British system requires 
only one forward observer, placed well ahead 
of the base, and all he has to do is to press a 
button and start the apparatus before the 
sound reaches the microphones. 

"The photographic record is ready for the 
computer in from six to ten seconds, and the 
gun position can be found and plotted in three 
or four minutes. 

"Sound ranging also can be used for ranging 
our own guns with great accuracy. When a 
record has been obtained of a hostile gun, all 
that need be done is to record the burst of 
our own shell and give corrections to our bat- 
tery until the record of our shell-burst is iden- 
tical with that of the hostile gun. The shell 
must then be on the target. 

"The system works equally well by day or 
by night, in rain or in fog. Its one enemy is 
a wind which blows towards the hostile gun 
and prevents the sound reaching the recording 
apparatus. It can detect a gun as easily if 
it is in a wood or in a building as if it were 
on a hill-top. 

"Simple as it appears, however, it is not so 
easy as one might think to make a practical 


ally of sound ranging. We have succeeded. 
The Germans failed. Towards the end of the 
war at least ninety per cent, of the German 
artillery was marked down accurately by these 
means; and the staff employed on sound- 
ranging and flash-spotting (the last a kindred 
method depending on a mixture of observation 
and mathematics) had grown from four in 
1914 to four thousand five hundred in 1918. 

"Casualties have been heavy, and the work 
arduous. But those responsible for it have, 
at any rate, 'done their bit.'" 

This is just one instance, such as we igno- 
rant at home can more or less follow, of that 
concentration of British wit and British per- 
severance on the terrible business of war which 
carried us to our goal. Germany prided her- 
seK, above all, on "scientific war." But the 
nation she despised as slow-witted and effete 
has met her again and again on her own boasted 
ground, and, brain for brain, has won. 

With the ever-growing importance of artil- 
lery has gone, of course, a constant increase 
in artillery "personnel^ and in the proportion 
of gunners to infantry. The Third Battle of 
Ypres in the autumn of 1917 was "one of in- 
tense struggle for artillery supremacy," says 
the Field Marshal. Germany had put out 


all her strength in guns, and was determined 
to beat down the British artillery. The Brit- 
ish Command met the attack and defeated it, 
in a long-drawn battle, in which, naturally, 
the proportion of artillery ^personnel to in- 
fantry was exceptionally high — at one time 
eighty-five per cent. Last spring, for a short 
time, owing to the transference of batteries 
from the Russian front, the enemy command 
succeeded in establishing ^'a definite local 
artillery superiority." But it was soon over. 
Before the breakdown of the March offensive 
"our guns had regained the upper hand," and 
in the later battles of the year the German 
artillery was finally mastered. 

But immense as was the growth of the 
artillery factor, the ultimate problem was the 
old problem of co-operation and combination 
of all factors. "Deep study of work other 
than one's own," "understanding of the other 
man's job" — ^for the highest success in any 
branch of the Army, these were and are in- 
dispensable. Only so can the vast machine 
work satisfactorily; only so can the human 
intelligence embodied in it come to its own. 

To the two subsidiary services most in the 
public eye — tanks and aeroplanes — I will re- 
turn presently. As to the Signal Service, the 


"nervous system" of the Army, on which 
"co-operation and combination" depend, it 
has grown, says the Field Marshal, "almost 
out of recognition." At the outbreak of war 
it consisted of 2,400 officers and men; by the 
end of the war it had risen to 42,000. Cables, 
telegrams, wireless, carrier-pigeons and dog 
messengers — every kind of device was used for 
keeping up the communications, which mean 
everything in battle. The signal oflBcer and 
his men creeping out over No Man's Land to 
mend a wire, or lay down a new one, in the 
very heart of the fighting, have carried the 
lives of thousands in their hands, and have 
risked their own without a thought. Sir 
Douglas Haig, from his Headquarters, spoke 
not only to every unit in the British Army, 
but to the Headquarters of our Allies — to 
London, Paris, and Marseilles. An Army 
Headquarters was prepared to deal with 10,000 
telegrams and 5,000 letters in twenty-four 
hours; and wherever an army went, its cables 
and telephones went with it. As many as 
6,500 miles of field cable have been issued in 
a single week, and the weekly average over the 
whole of 1918 was 3,000. 

As to the Rearward and Transport Services, 
seeing that the Army was really the nation, 
with the best of British intelligence everywhere 


at its command, it is not surprising perhaps 
that a business people, under the pressure of a 
vital struggle, obtained so brilliant a success. 
In 1916, I saw something of the great business 
departments of the Army — the Army Service, 
Army Ordnance, and Motor Transport depots 
at Havre and Rouen. The sight was to me a 
bewildering illustration of what English "mud- 
dling" could do when put to the test. On 
my return to London, Dr. Page, the late 
American Ambassador, who during the years 
when America was still neutral had managed, 
notwithstanding, to win all our hearts, gave 
me an account of the experience of certain 
American oflSicers in the same British bases, 
and the impression made on them. ^*They 
came here afterwards on their way home," he 
said — I well remember his phrase, "with the 
eyes starting out of their heads, and with re- 
ports that will transform all our similar work at 
home." So that we may perhaps trace some at 
least of those large and admirable conceptions of 
Base needs and Base management, with which 
the American Army prepared its way in France, 
to these early American visits and reports, as 
well as to the native American genius for or- 
ganisation and the generosity of American 

But if the spectacle of "the back of the 


Army" was a wonderful one in 1916, it be- 
came doubly wonderful before the end of the 
war. The feeding strength of our forces in 
France rose to a total approaching 2,700,000 
men. The Commander-in-Chief tries to make 
the British public understand something of 
what this figure means. Transport and ship- 
ping were, of course, the foundation of every- 
thing. While the British Fleet kept the seas 
and fought the submarine, the Directorate of 
Docks handled the ports, and the Directorate 
of Roads, with the Directorates of Railway 
Traffic, Construction and Light Railways, 
dealt with the land transport. During the 
years of war we landed ten and a half millions 
of persons in France, and last year the weekly 
tonnage arriving at French ports exceeded 
175,000 tons. Meanwhile four thousand five 
hundred miles of road were made or kept up 
by the Directorate of Roads. Only they who 
have seen with their own eyes — or felt in their 
own bones ! — what a wrecked road, or a road 
worn to pieces by motor lorries, is really like, 
can appreciate what this means. And during 
1918 alone, the Directorate of Railway Traffic 
built or repaired 2,340 miles of broad-gauge 
and 1,348 miles of narrow-gauge railway. 
Everywhere, indeed, on the deserted battle- 


fields you come across these deserted light 
railways by which men and guns were fed. 
May one not hope that they may still be of 
use in the reconstruction of French towns and 
the revival of French agriculture ? 

As to the feeding and cooking and washing 
of the armies, the story is no less wonderful, 
and I remember as I read the great camp 
laundry at Etaples that I went through in 

1917, with its busy throng of Frenchwomen 
at work and its 30,000 items a day. Twenty- 
five thousand cooks have been trained in the 
cookery schools of the Army, while a jealous 
watch has been kept on all waste and by- 
products under an Inspectorate of Economies. 
As to the care of the horses, in health or in 
sickness, the British Remount and Veterinary 
Service has been famed throughout Europe 
for efllciency and humanity. 

Of the vast hospital service, what can one 
say that has not been said a thousand times 
already .f^ Between the spring of 1916, when 
I first saw the fighting front, and November, 

1918, the hospital accommodation in France 
rose from 44,000 to 175,000 persons. That 
is to say, we kept our wounded in France dur- 
ing the height of the submarine campaign, 
both to protect them from the chance of further 


suffering, and to economise our dwindling ton- 
nage, and fresh hospitals had to be built for 
them. Of the doctors and nurses, the stretcher- 
bearers and orderlies, whose brave and sacred 
work it was to gather the wounded from the 
battle-line, and to bring to bear upon the 
suffering and martyrdom of war all that hu- 
man skill and human tenderness could devise. 
Sir Douglas Haig has said many true and elo- 
quent things in the course of his despatches. 
He sums them all up in his last despatch in 
the plain words: "In spite of the numbers 
dealt with, there has been no war in which the 
resources of science have been utilised so gener- 
ously and successfully for the quick evacuation 
and careful tending of the sick and wounded, 
or for the ^prevention of disease.'^ 

Most true — and yet ? Do not let us deceive 
ourselves ! The utmost energy, the tenderest 
devotion, the noblest skill, can go but a cer- 
tain way when measured against the sum 
total of human suffering caused by war. The 
ablest of doctors and nurses are the first to 
admit it. Those of us whose wounded brothers 
and sons reached in safety the haven of hos- 
pital comfort and skilled nursing, and were 
thereby brought back to life, are, thank 
Heaven, the fortunate many. But there are 


the few for whose dear ones all that wonder- 
ful hospital and nursing science was of no 
avail. I think of a gallant boy lying out all 
night with a broken thigh in a shell-hole amid 
the mud and under the rain of Flanders. 
Kind hands come with the morning and carry 
him to the advanced dressing station. There 
is still hope. But miles of mud and broken 
ground lie between him and the nearest hos- 
pital. Immediate warmth and rest and nurs- 
ing might have saved him. But they are un- 
attainable. Brave men carry the boy tenderly, 
carefully, the three miles to the casualty clear- 
ing station. The strain on the flickering life 
is just too much, and in the first night of 
hospital, when every care is round it, the 
young life slips away — lost by so little — by no 
fault ! 

Is there any consolation .^^ One only — the 
boy's own spirit. A comrade remembers one 
of his last sayings — a simple casual word: "I 
don't expect to come through — ^but — it's worth 

There one reaches the bed-rock of it all — 
the conviction of a just cause. What would 
it avail us — this pride of victory, of organisa- 
tion, of science, to which these great despatches 
of our great Commander-in-Chief bear wit- 


ness, without that spiritual certainty behind it 
all — the firm faith that England was fighting 
for the right, and, God helping her, "could 
do no other." 



I have quoted in the preceding chapter the 
warning words of Sir Douglas Haig on the 
subject of "mechanical appliances." The gist 
of them is that mechanical appliances can 
never replace men, and that the history of 
tanks in the war shows that, useful as they 
have been, their value depends always upon 
combination with both infantry and artillery. 
So far from their doing away with artillery, 
the Commander-in-Chief points out that the 
Battle of Amiens, August 8th, in which the 
greatest force of tanks was used, and in which 
they were most brilliantly successful, was "an 
action in which more artillery ammunition was 
expended than in any action of similar dimen- 
sions in the whole war." 

The tank enthusiasts will clearly not be 
quite satisfied with so measured a judgment ! 
They point to the marked effect of the tanks 
on the strategy of the last three months of the 



war, to the extraordinary increase in the ele- 
ments of mobility and surprise which their 
use made possible, to the efifect of them also 
on German opinion and morale, and they be- 
lieve that in any future war — if war there be ! 
— they are certain to play, not a subsidiary, 
but a commanding part. 

One of the most distinguished oflBcers of the 
Tank Corps, who was wounded and decorated 
before he joined the corps, was severely 
wounded twice while he belonged to the 
corps, and was an eye-witness of the incidents 
he describes, allows me to print the following 

" You ask me for a short account of what tanks have done In 
the war. In doing so, you set me a diflScult problem! For 
three years I have thought of practically nothing else but 
tanks, so that I find it very difficult to deal with the subject 
briefly. However, I will try. 

"The basic idea and purpose of tanks is a very simple one: 
to save infantry casualties. A new tank can be built in a 
few months; a new soldier cannot be produced under eighteen 
years. This idea — of the use of mechanical means to save 
casualties — undoubtedly had much to do with the production 
in the Tank Corps, a new imit and without traditions, of the 
very high esprit de corps it has always shown, and without which 
it could not have developed successfully. 

"Tanks were first used by the British on the 15th September, 
1916, in the Battle of the Ancre. They had, however, been 
designed to meet the conditions which existed in the preceding 
year, before the tremendous artillery bombardments of the 


middle stages of the war reduced the ground to a series of 
shell-holes and craters, which were so closely continuous over 
a large area of ground that they could not possibly be avoided. 
Compared with the latest type of tank, our first effort — known 
as Mark I. — may appear crude; but much genius had been 
expended upon it, and it is worth noting that both the French 
and German tanks, produced long after this tank, were much 
inferior to it. 

*' The Ypres salient, let me begin by saying, was never fav- 
ourable to the employment of tanks. In the Third Battle of 
Ypres (31st July to November, 1917), which I personally be- 
lieve to have been the hardest battle of the whole war, the 
tanks were unable to cope with the wet and shelled ground." 

Nevertheless, towards the end of the Ypres 
battle the tank attack in the first Battle of 
Cambrai was being planned, and there, at 
last, the enthusiasts of the Tank Corps had 
the conditions for which they had been long 
hoping — a good ground and a surprise attack. 

"It is important to remember, the letter continues, that the 
Hindenburg line at that time presented an insoluble problem. 
The sea of wire which protected its well-developed trenches 
and machine-gim positions was placed almost throughout on 
the reverse slope of the hills or rising ground of which the line 
took advantage. The artillery observer could hardly get a 
view of the wire at all; beside which, it was so deep it would 
have taken a month to cut it by artillery fire. 

*' The tank provided the solution — the only solution. The 
tank, by crushing down the wire — in a few minutes — was able 
to do what there seemed no other way of doing. And the 
tank success at Cambrai was not a mere flash in the pan. 
To the end of the war the Hindenburg line, or any other line 


organised in the same way, was entirely at the mercy of the 

" The tanks, however, did not make their full weight felt un- 
til August, 1918. They had become a very important factor 
before that, and had saved thousands of lives; but from the 
beginning of the counter-offensive of last year they were a 
dominating feature of the war. Ludendorff had already 
recognised their importance in July, after the French use of 
them in the Battle of Soissons, when he wrote to his Army 
Commanders that *the utmost attention must be paid to 
combating tanks. Our earlier successes against tanks led to 
a certain contempt for this weapon of warfare. We must 
now reckon with more dangerous tanks.' '* 

The "earlier successes" mentioned were 
those of the Third Battle of Ypres. In the 
Ypres salient, however, the real anti-tank de- 
fence was the mud, and the general conclu- 
sions which the German Higher Command 
drew from the derelict tanks they captured 
during the fighting of October, 1917, were en- 
tirely misleading, as they soon discovered to 
their cost, a few weeks later, in the First 
Battle of Cambrai. They showed, indeed, 
throughout a curious lack of intelligence and 
foresight with regard to the new weapon, both 
as to its possibilities and as to the means of 
fighting it. They were at first entirely sur- 
prised by their appearance in the field; then 
they despised them; and it was not till July 
and August, 1918, at the beginning of the last 


great Allied offensive — when it will be remem- 
bered that Sir Henry Rawlinson had 400 
tanks under his command — that the Germans 
awoke — too late — to the full importance of 
the new arm. 

Thenceforward "the enemy was overcome 
by a great fear of the Allied tanks, and in some 
cases even over-estimated their effect." But 
it was now too late to put up an adequate de- 
fence against "the more dangerous tanks," 
which were already available in large numbers 
on the Allied side. It seems incredible, but 
it is true, that the Germans never possessed at 
any time more than fifteen tanks of their own, 
plus some twenty-five captured and repaired 
British tanks; and the only action in which 
they employed them with any considerable 
success was at the capture of Villers Breton- 
neux, April 24th, 1918 (the success which was 
so quickly turned into defeat by the Aus- 
tralians). After last July, however, the Ger- 
man panic with regard to them grew rapidly, 
and on the 15th of August we find it stated 
that everything possible must be done to give 
the artillery "freedom of action in its main 
role, viz., the engagement of tanks." "Its 
main role!" The phrase shows that under 
the pressure of the tanks, the two chief pillars 


and axioms of the former German defence 
system — "protective barrages" and "immedi- 
ate counter-attack" — were giving way, in the 
case at least of tank attacks, with, of course, 
the natural result of confusion and weakness. 
After the Battle of Amiens (August 8th) 
the German Command issued an explanation 
of the defeat, signed by Ludendorff. Chief 
among the reasons given appears: "The fact 
that the troops were surprised by the massed 
attack of tanks, and lost their heads when 
the tanks suddenly appeared behind them, 
having broken through under cover of fog 
and smoke." The Crown Prince's group of 
armies reports on the same battle: "That 
during the present fighting large numbers of 
tanks broke through on narrow fronts, and, 
pushing straight forward, rapidly attacked 
battery positions and the headquarters of 
divisions. In many cases no defence could be 
made in time against the tanks, which attacked 
them from all sides." 

And the peremptory order follows: 
"Messages concerning tanks will have pri- 
ority over all other messages or calls what- 


Naturally the German Army and the Ger- 
man public had by this time begun to ask why 


the German Command was not itself better 
equipped with tanks before the opening of the 
AlUed offensive. The answer seems to be, 
first of all, that they were originally thought 
little of, as "a British idea." "The use of 300 
British tanks at Cambrai," says a German 
document, "was a 'battle of material.' The 
German Higher Command decided from the 
very outset not to fight a 'battle of material.'" 
They preferred instead their habitual policy 
of "massed attack" — using thereby in the 
fighting line a number of inferior men, "classi- 
fied as fit for garrison or labour duties," but 
who, if they "can carry a rifle, must fight." 
The German Command were, therefore, "not 
in a position to find the labour for the con- 
struction of new and additional material such 
as tanks." For the initial arrogance, however, 
which despised the tanks, and for the system 
which had prevented him from building them 
in time, when their importance was realised, 
the enemy was soon plunged in bitter but un- 
availing regrets. All he could do was to throw 
the blame of failure on the Allies' new weapon, 
and to issue despairing appeals to his own 
troops. The Allies were sometimes stated to 
have captured such and such a place "by the 
use of masses of tanks," when, as a matter of 


fact, very few tanks had been used. And 
this convenient excuse, as it appeared in the 
official communiques^ began soon to have 
some strange and disastrous results. The 
German regimental officer began to think 
that as soon as tanks appeared, it was a suffi- 
cient reason for the loss of a position. For the 
German Army last year might be divided into 
three categories: "A small number of stout- 
hearted men (chiefly machine-gunners), who 
could be depended on to fight to the last; 
men who did not intend to fight, and did in- 
tend to put up their hands on the first occasion; 
and, thirdly, the 'great middle class,' who were 
prepared to do their duty, and had a sense of 
discipline, but who could not be classed as 
heroes. ... It was they who came to con- 
sider that when tanks arrived, Hhere was 
nothing to be done.'" 

Moreover, the failure of the German Higher 
Command to produce tanks themselves to 
fight those of the AUies had a very serious 
effect, not only on the faith of the troops in 
their generals, but also on the morale of the 
public at home. German war correspondents 
and members of the Reichstag began to ask 
indignant questions, and the German War 
Office hurriedly defended itself in the Reichs- 


tag. As late as October 23rd General Scheuch, 
the German War Minister, declared: "We 
have been actively engaged for a long period 
in producing this weapon (which is recognised 
as important) in adequate numbers." It 
seems to be true that efforts were then being 
made, but not true that these efforts were of 
long standing. '* Altogether 'slowness' was 
the keynote throughout of the German atti- 
tude towards the tank idea." He neither ap- 
preciated their true use nor the best means 
of fighting them; and even when we presented 
him with derelict tanks, as was soon the case 
on the Ancre in 1916, he failed to diagnose the 
creature accurately. 

"It is natural, I think," my correspondent continues, "that 
the British should pride themselves on being the introducers 
and leading exponents of this weapon. What the future will 
bring no one knows; but if war is to persist, there can be no 
doubt that mechanical means in general, and tanks in par- 
ticular, must develop more and more. If any civilised state 
is compelled to use force, it will, if really civilised, strive to 
sacrifice its wealth and its material as far as possible, rather 
than its human lives. 

"As to incidents, you asked me for some recollections of 
those which had particularly impressed themselves upon me. 
It is hard to choose. The Third Battle of Ypres, to which I 
have referred, brought out many wonderful deeds of deliberate 
self-sacrifice. Take the following: 

"In one case a section of three tanks were the only ones 
available to support an infantry attack. The ground over 


which they had to proceed was m a terrible state, and their 
chances of success were small. Their only chance of success, 
in fact, depended on their finding in the early dawn, and in 
the fog of battle, one single crossing over the marshy stream. 
The enemy front line was actually in front of this stream. 
The officer commanding the section considered that the only 
way of finding the route was on foot. With the knowledge 
that this meant certain death, he led his section of tanks 
through the bad ground under very heavy fire. He found the 
bridge safely, and was killed as he reached it. The tanks 
went on and succeeded in their mission, and many infantry 
lives were saved by this act of sacrifice." 

Then take the ease of the incident of Gen- 
eral Elles at the First Battle of Cambrai. As 
my correspondent of the Tank Corps, who was 
in the battle, says: "In modern warfare the 
place of the General Commanding is almost 
invariably in the rear of his troops, in a posi- 
tion where communications are good, and 
where he can employ his reserves at the right 
moment. At this battle all the available 
Tanks (about four hundred) were being used. 
There were no reserves. So the General Com- 
manding led the attack, flying the Tank Corps 
flag. He came safely through the attack, 
which undoubtedly owed some measure of its 
success to the inspiration which this act gave 
to the troops." 

A quiet account ! — given by a man who was 
certainly not very far away from his General 


in the aflfair. Let me supplement it a little by 
the story of Mr. Philip Gibbs, who seems to 
have seen as much as any correspondent might, 
of this wonderful "'show" of the Tanks.^ 

"For strange, unusual drama, far beyond 
the most fantastic imagination, this attack on 
the Hindenburg line before Cambrai has never 
been approached on the Western Front; and 
the first act began when the Tanks moved for- 
ward, before the dawn, towards the long wide 
belts of wire which they had to destroy before 
the rest could follow. These squadrons of 
Tanks were led into action by the General 
Commanding their corps, who carried his flag 
on their own Tank — a most gallant gentleman, 
full of enthusiasm for his monsters and their 
brave crews, and determined that this day 
would be theirs. They moved forward in 
small groups, several hundreds of them, rolled 
down the Germans' wire and trampled down 
its lines, and then crossed the deep gulf of the 
Hindenburg main line, pitching nose down- 
ward as they drew their long bodies over the 
parapets, and rearing themselves again with 
forward reach of body, and heaving themselves 
on to the German parados beyond. ... The 
German troops, out of the gloom of the dawn, 
saw these grey inhuman creatures bearing down 


upon them, crushing down their wire, crossing 
their impregnable Hnes, firing fiercely from 
their flanks and sweeping the trenches with 
machine-gun bullets." A captured German 
officer thought "he had gone mad," as he 
watched the Tanks, while his men ran about 
in terror, trying to avoid the bursts of fire, and 
crying out in surrender. ''What could we do ?" 

Meanwhile, our own men, English, Irish, 
and Scottish troops, went behind the Tanks, 
"laughing and cheering when they saw them 
get at the German wire and eat it up, and then 
head for the Hindenburg line, and cross it 
as though it were but a narrow ditch." 

And yet, after this experience, the Germans 
still delayed to make Tanks ! No doubt they 
argued that, after all, the Cambrai attack, in 
spite of the Tanks, had ended in a check for 
the British, and in the loss of much of the 
ground which had been gained by the surprise 
attack of the "grey monsters." Meanwhile, 
the Russian front was rapidly breaking down, 
and in their exultant anticipation of the fresh 
forces they would soon be drawing from it to 
throw against the British Armies, the standing 
contempt of the German Command for "Brit- 
ish ideas" and a "battle of material" won 
the day. 


The German General Staff, therefore, main- 
tained its refusal to spare labour and material 
to make Tanks, and the refusal must have 
seemed to them fully justified by the initial 
success of their March offensive. Tanks played 
practically no part in the fighting withdrawal 
of the British Armies in March and April, 
1918. But all this time Tank development 
was going on; and the believers in Tanks were 
working away at the improvement of the types, 
convinced now, as ever, that their day would 
come. It dawned with the Australian attack 
at Villers-Bretonneux on April 24th, when the 
fortunes of battle were already changing; it 
rose higher on July 4th, when the Australians 
again took Hamel and Vaire Wood, the Tanks 
splendidly helping; it was at the full on and 
after August 8th, at the Battle of Amiens, 
the first page in the last chapter of the war. 

The next incident described by my corre- 
spondent occurred at the taking of the St. 
Quentin section of the Hindenburg line by the 
4th British Army, two American divisions 
leading the way. 

"The attack," he writes, "had been a very 
diflScult one, and had only been successful in 
certain sectors. As usual, the attack had been 
launched at dawn, and the morning had been 


exceptionally misty. Later on the mist began 
to roll away rather quickly, and it was found 
that in one sector where the attack had made 
no progress, the Germans were in a position" 
— owing to the ridge they occupied having 
been till then shrouded in mist — "to bring 
very heavy machine-gun fire to bear on the 
backs of the troops advancing in a sector where 
the attack had gone well. Unless something 
were done at once to drive the Germans from 
the ridge they were holding, not only would 
many lives be lost, but the result of the attack 
which had gone well would be jeopardised. 
Without waiting for orders and on their own 
initiative, two Tanks, which were standing by 
in order to attack with fresh troops later in the 
day, drove straight for the ridge.* Two Tanks, 
without either infantry or artillery support, went 
straight for an unbroken portion of the German 
line. They reached the ridge, and drove the 
Germans ofiP it. Both Tanks were hit by sev- 
eral shells, and caught fire. The survivors 
of the crews, with a few infantry soldiers, or- 
ganised the ridge for defence, turned the Ger- 
man machine guns round, and when the Ger- 
mans counter-attacked, this small but deter- 
mined garrison poured so hot a fire on them 

1 * The italics are mine. 


from their own guns that they were driven 
back, and the important post secured." 

There is nothing, I think, that need prevent 
me from pointing out, what there is no hint 
of in the letter itself — that the writer of it was 
in one of the Tanks, and was severely wounded. 

In the last actions of the war, even the 
semblance of a Tank was sometimes enough ! 
"Supply Tanks" — ^writes my informant — 
"were then being used, which looked like the 
real thing, but were only very slightly arm- 
oured. They were intended to carry material, 
sometimes munitions, and even food. Three 
of these pseudo-tanks were carrying up ma- 
terial to rebuild a bridge which had been de- 
stroyed. They discovered, when they neared 
the place, that the enemy were holding it in 
some strength, and our infantry could not 
advance. Moreover, directly the Tanks ap- 
peared, they began to draw fire — ^which they 
were not meant to face — and the situation was 
threatening. But, with great pluck and re- 
source, the Tanks decided just to go on, and 
trust to their looks, which were like those of 
the fighting Tanks, to drive the enemy from 
the position. . . . One Tank became a cas- 
ualty; but the other two went straight for the 
German lines; and the Germans, ilnder the 


impression that they were being attacked by 
fighting Tanks, either put up their hands or 

Thus, in Its last moments of resistance, the 
German Army, now but the ghost of itself, 
was scattered by the ghost of a Tank ! What 
was being prepared for it, had the struggle 
gone on, is told in a memorandum on Tanks 
organisation which has come my way, and 
makes one alternately shudder at the war 
that might have been, and rejoice in the peace 
that is. In the last weeks of the war. Tank 
organisation was going rapidly forward. A 
new Tank Board, consisting of Naval, Military, 
and Industrial members, was concentrating all 
its stored knowledge on "the application of 
naval tactics to land warfare," in other words, 
on the development of Tanks, and had the 
war continued, the complete destruction of the 
German Armies would have been brought about 
in 1919 by "a Tank programme of some six 
thousand machines.'^ When one considers that 
for the whole of the three last victorious 
months in which Tanks played such an as- 
tonishing part, the British Armies never pos- 
sessed more than four hundred of them, who 
travelled like a circus from army to army, the 
significance of this figure will be understood. 


Nor could Germany, by any possibility, have 
produced either the labour or the material 
necessary, whereby to meet Tank with Tank. 
The game was played out and the stakes lost. 

But of fresh headings in this last tremen- 
dous chapter of England^ s Effort, there might 
be no end. I can only glance at one or two 
of them. 

The Air Force .^^ Ah, that, indeed, is an- 
other story — and so great a one, that all I 
can attempt here is to put together* a few 
facts and figures, in one of those comparisons 
of the "beginning," with the "end," of time 
with time, by which alone some deposit from 
the stream of history in which we are all 
bathed filters into the mind, and — with good 
luck: stays there. Here, in Hertfordshire, in 
the first summer of the war, how great an event 
was still the passage of an aeroplane over 
these quiet woods ! How the accidents of the 
first two years appalled us, heart-broken spec- 
tators, and the inexorable military comment 
upon them: "Accidents or no accidents, we 
have got to master this thing, and master 
the Germans in it." And, accidents or no 
accidents, the young men of Britain and 

* From the recent OflBcial Report issued by the Air Board. 


France steadily made their way to the aviation 
schools, having no illusions at all, in those early 
days, as to the special and deadly risks to be 
run, yet determined to run them, partly from 
clear-eyed patriotism, partly from that natural 
call of the blood which makes an Englishman or 
a Frenchman delight in danger and the untried 
for their own sakes. Thenceforward, the won- 
derful tale ran, mounting to its climax. At the 
beginning of the war the military wing of the 
British Air Service consisted of 1,844 oflScers 
and men. At the conclusion of the war there 
were, in round numbers, 28,000 oflBcers and 
264,000 other ranks employed under the Air 
Board. From under 2,000 to nearly 300,000 ! 
— and in four years ! And the uses to which 
this new Army of the Winds was put, grew 
perpetually with its growth. Let us remember 
that, while aeroplane reconnaissance was of 
immense service in the earliest actions of the 
war, there was no artillery observation by aero- 
"plane till after the first Battle of the Marne. 
There is the landmark. Artillery observation 
was used for the jBrst time at the Battle of the 
Aisne, in the German retreat from the Marne. 
Thenceforward, month by month, the men in 
the clouds became increasingly the indispensa- 
ble guides and allies of the men on the ground. 


searching out and signalling the guns of the 
enemy, while preventing his fliers from search- 
ing out and signalling our own. Next came 
the marvellous development of aerial photog- 
raphy, by which the whole trench world, the 
artillery positions and hinterland of the hostile 
army could be mapped day by day for the 
mformation of those attacking it; the devel- 
opment of the bombing squadrons, which be- 
gan by harassing the enemy's communications 
immediately behind the fighting line, and de- 
veloped Into those formidable expeditions of 
the Independent Force into Germany itself, 
which so largely influenced the later months 
of the war. Finally, the airman, not content 
with his own perpetual and deadly fighting in 
the air, fighting in which the combatants of 
all nations developed a daring beyond the 
dreams of any earlier world, began to take 
part in the actual land-battle itself, swooping 
on reserves, firing into troops on the march, 
or bringing up ammunition. 

And while the flying Army of the Winds was 
there developing, the flying Army of the Seas, 
its twin brother, was not a whit behind. The 
record of the Naval Air Service, as the scouts 
for the Fleet, the perpetual foe of, and cease- 
less spy upon, the submarine, will stir the in- 


stincts for song and story in our race while 
song and story remain. It was the naval 
airmen who protected and made possible the 
safe withdrawal of the troops from Suvla and 
Helles; it was they who discovered and de- 
stroyed the mines along our coasts; who fought 
the enemy seaplanes man to man, and gun to 
gun; who gave the pirate nests of Zeebrugge 
and Ostend no rest by day or night, who 
watched over the ceaseless coming and going 
of the British, Dominion, and American troops 
across the Channel; who were the eyes of our 
coasts as the ships, laden with the men, food, 
and munitions, which were the hfe-blood of 
the Allied Cause, drew homeward to our ports, 
with the submarines on their track, and the 
protecting destroyers at their side. 

Nor did we only manufacture planes and 
train men for ourselves. "The Government 
of the United States," says the Air Service 
Report, ''has paid a striking tribute to the 
British Air Service by adopting our system of 
training. The first 500 American oflBcer cadets 
to be trained went through the School of Mili- 
tary Aeronautics at Oxford, afterwards grad- 
uating at various aerodromes in England. 
These oflBcers formed the nucleus of American 
schools, which were eventually started both 


in the United States and in France. ... In 
all about 700 American pilots have passed 
through our schools. . . . And when the 
question of producing a standardised engine 
was considered every facility was given and 
all our experience placed at the disposal of the 
American Government, with the result that 
the Liberty engine was evolved." 

Meanwhile the constant adaptation to new 
conditions required in the force stimulated the 
^ wits of everybody concerned. Take aerial 
" photography. The first successful photograph 
was taken in November, 1914, of the village 
of Neuve Chapelle. The photographic sec- 
tion then consisted of two oflSicers and three 
men, with two cameras and a portable box of 
chemicals. At the present day it contains 250 
officers and 3,000 men — ^with a large training 
school; and its prints have been issued by the 

Meanwhile the development of our aircraft 
fire had driven the aerial photographer from a 
height of 3,000 feet up to a height of 22,000, 
where, but for invention, he might have per- 
ished with cold, or found it impossible to 
breathe. But intelligence pursued him, pro- 
viding him with oxygen and with electric heat- 
ing apparatus in the upper air. And when, 


on the other hand, he or his comrade swooped 
down to within a few hundred feet of the earth, 
in order to co-operate in attack with infantry 
or Tanks, again inteUigence came into play, 
inventing a special armoured machine for the 
protection of the new tactics. 

The growth of ^'wireless," as a means of air- 
communication, is another astounding chapter 
in this incredible story. Only one of the ma- 
chines which left with the original Expedition- 
ary Force was fitted with '"wireless" apparatus, 
and it was not used till the first Battle of the 
Aisne, when co-operation with the artillery 
first began. There are now 520 oflBcers in the 
''wireless" branch and 6,200 other ranks; 
while there are 80 "wireless" stations in France 
alone and several hundred battery stations. 
"Wireless" telephony, too, has been made 
practical since 1917; and over a range of some 
75 miles has been of deadly use to the artil- 
lery, especially at night, when the watcher in 
the skies becomes aware of lighted aerodromes, 
or railway stations, behind the enemy lines. 

"Many wonders there be, but none more 
wonderful than man," said Sophocles, in the 
fifth century before Christ, and he gives the 
catalogue of man's discoveries, as the reflec- 
tive Greek saw it, at that moment of the 


world's history. Man, "master of cunning," 
had made for himself ships, ploughs, and 
houses, had tamed the horse and the bull; 
had learned how to snare wild creatures for 
food, had developed speech, intelligence, civili- 
sation. Marvels indeed ! But had it ever 
occurred to such a Greek to ponder the general 
stimulus given to human faculty by war? 
Probably, for the wise Greek had thought of 
most things, and some reader of these pages 
who knows his rich literature better than I 
do, will very likely remember how and where. 
Modern history, indeed, is full of examples, 
from the Crusades onward. But there can 
never have been any such demonstration of it 
as this war has yielded. The business of peace 
is now, largely, to turn to account the dis- 
coveries of the war— ^in mechanics, chemistry, 
electricity, medical science, methods of or- 
ganisation, and a score of other branches of 
human knowledge, and that in the interests 
of life, and not of death. For the human loss 
of the war there is no comfort, except in those 
spiritual hopes and convictions by which ulti- 
mately most men live. But for the huge eco- 
nomic waste, the waste of money and material 
and accumulated plant, caused by the strug- 
gle, there is some comfort, in this develop- 


ment of faculty, this pushing forward of human 
knowledge into regions hitherto unmapped, 
which the war has seen. This week, for in- 
stance,* American and British airmen are com- 
peting in the first Atlantic flight, and the whole 
world is looking on. Again there is risk of 
danger and death, but the prizes sought are 
now the prizes of peace, the closer brother- 
hood of men, a truer knowledge one of another, 
the interchanges of science and labour; and 
they are sought by means taught in the fur- 
nace of war. Thus, from the sacrifices of the 
terrible past may spring a quickened life for 
the new world. Will that new world be 
worthy of them? — there is the question on 
which all depends. A certain anguish clings 
to it, as one measures the loss, and cannot 
yet measure the gain. \ 

I have dwelt on some of the accomplished 
wonders — the results of the war, in the material 
field — guns. Tanks, and aeroplanes. But just 
as mechanical devices were and are, in the 
opinion of the Commander-in-Chief, of no 
avail without the fighting men who use them; 
so behind the whole red pageant of the war 
lie two omnipresent forces without which it 

* May 19th. 


could not have been sustained for a day — 
Labour at the base, Directing InteUigence at 
the top. In the Labour battaHons of the Army 
there has been a growth in numbers and a 
development in organisation only second to 
that of the fighting Army itself. Labour 
companies were already in being in 1914, but 
they chiefly worked at the ports, and were 
recruited mainly from dock labourers. Then 
it was realised that to employ the trained 
soldier on many of the ordinary "fatigue" 
duties was to waste his training, and Labour 
began to be sent plentifully to the front. For 
trench-digging, for hut-building, for the making 
and repair of roads and railways, for the 
handling and unloading of supplies and am- 
munition, for sanitation, salvage, moving the 
wounded at casualty clearing stations, and a 
score of other needs, the demand on the 
Labour battalions grew and grew. 

How well I remember the shivering Kaffir 
boys and Indians at work on the handling of 
stores and ammunition in the cold spring of 
1917 ! — and the navvy battalions on the roads 
before the Chinese had arrived in force, and 
before the great rush of German prisoners 
began. Between the British navvy battalions, 
many of them elderly men past military age. 


or else unfit in some way for the fighting fine, 
and their comrades in the trenches, there were 
generally the friendliest relations. The fight- 
ing man knew well what he owed to the "old 
boys." I have before me an account by a 
Highland oflBcer of the relation between a 
navvy and a regular battalion in the Ypres 
salient. "Their huts stretched along the side 
of the road which led us towards our trenches; 
and every time we passed that way the sound 
of the pipes would bring them out of their 
billets in crowds to cheer us in, or to welcome 
us back if we were returning. They kept 
that road in splendid repair, despite the heavy 
wear and tear of the endless traffic which used 
it, and we blessed them many times. There 
was a two-miles stretch across shell-torn, 
muddy country just behind the fighting line. 
Tired men, just relieved from the trenches, 
and carrying heavy equipment, naturally 
loathed it as a Slough of Despond; but when 
we struck the good, honest surface of the 
navvy battalion's road, though there were 
many miles still between us and rest, we felt 
the journey was as good as over, so easy, by 
comparison, had marching become. A close 
friendship grew up between our battalions. 
Our officers invited their officers to dinner. 


Our men saluted their officers, and if one of 
our officers happened to come on the scene of 
their operations, some old .veteran, wearing 
perhaps the medal ribbon of campaigns dating 
back a generation, would call his gang to at- 
tention, and gravely give the salute after the 
manner of thirty years ago. And when one 
reahsed what the age of these men must be, 
who were wearing decorations of Egyptian 
and Indian frontier campaigns, with not a 
few Zulu ribbons among them, one marvelled 
at the skill and strength with which the old 
fellows wielded pick and shovel. They could 
not march any great distance, and we helped 
them along in motor buses; but once set them 
down by their tracks, though the road might 
be chaos and the shell-holes innumerable, 
obstacles were cleared away, holes filled up, 
and the new surface well and truly laid with 
a magical rapidity. . . . The idea of taking 
shelter never seemed to occur to them; they 
openly rejoiced at being under fire. . . . Per- 
haps though they mended our roads and gave 
us easy walking, they helped us most by the 
quiet steadfastness of their example. One 
never saw them toiling away in the death- 
trap of the Ypres salient without realising 
that they were the fathers of our generation. 


men who had already spent themselves In 
Britain's cause when we were children, and 
had now come out to serve her again, at her 
call, and to watch how we young ones played 

Some more recent notes from G.H.Q. dwell 
warmly on the invaluable services rendered by 
the Labour Corps in the Battle of Cambrai, 
November, 1917, In the defensive battle of 
last spring, and in the autumn attacks which 
ended the war. In the Cambrai attack the 
Labour men were concentrated 1,000 yards 
behind the line, so as to be ready for Immediate 
advance. A light railway was run into Mar- 
colng within twenty-four hours of its capture, 
and another Into Moeuvres under heavy fire, 
while the approaches to the bridges over the 
Canal du Nord were carried out by men work- 
ing only 1,000 yards from the enemy machine 
guns posted on one of the locks of the Canal. 
In the withdrawals of last March and April, 
throughout the heavy defensive fighting of 
those dangerous weeks, no men were steadier. 
Theirs was the heavy work of digging new 
defence lines — at night — with long marches 
to and from their billets. Casualties and 
wastage were heavy, but could not be helped, 
as fighting men could not be spared. Yet the 


units concerned behaved "with the greatest 
gallantry." "One company," says a report 
from G.H.Q., "worked day and night in a 
forward ammunition dump for three days, and 
then marched seventy miles in six days, work- 
ing a day and night in another ammunition 
dump on the way, with no transport but one 
G.S. wagon to help them; in their retirements, 
effected as they were with almost no transport, 
they lost practically all their equipment, and 
yet without getting time to rest and re-equip, 
they had to be moved at once to work on de- 
fence lines." 

The total number of Labour men employed 
in stemming the German rush on Amiens, by 
the construction of new lines of defence, was 
no less than 62,000 — two-thirds, nearly, of the 
whole British Army at Waterloo ! 

Then, when our counter-attack began, the 
task of the Labour men was reversed. Now 
it was for them to go forward, well ahead of 
the reserves, and some 1,000 yards ahead of 
the skilled transport troops and the construc- 
tion trains that were laying the line for which 
the Labour men prepared the way. Death 
or wounds were always in the day's risks, but 
the Labour men "held on." By this time 
there were 350,000 men under the Labour 


Directorate — a force about equal to our whole 
Territorial and Regular Army before the war. 
They were a strange and motley host ! — 
95,000 British, 84,000 Chinese, 138,000 Pris- 
oners of War, 1,500 Cape Coloured, 4,000 
West Indians, 11,000 South African natives, 
100 Fijians, 7,500 Egyptians, 1,500 Indians — 
so run the principal items. The catalogue 
given of their labours covers all the rough 
work of the war household. They were the 
handy men everywhere, adding on occasion 
forestry and agriculture to their war-work, 
and the British Labour battalions were, of 
course, the stiflFening and superintending ele- 
ment for the rest. 

In the handling of the Coloured Labour 
Units there were naturally many new and 
occasionally surprising things to be learnt by 
the British soldiers directing them. A party 
of Nagas, for instance, were among the Indian 
Labour Units. "They were savages from a 
country which has only recently been brought 
thoroughly under British rule," writes an ofla- 
cer of the A.G.'s department. "Their pastime 
is head-hunting, and their 'uniform' when at 
home is that bestowed on them by Nature. 
They were extraordinarily cheerful, willing 
workers, and gave no trouble at all. The 


trouble of providing the special kind of food 
which in general the natives of India require, 
was entirely absent in the case of the Nagas. 
They have a strong liking for rats, and the 
only food they object to is monkeys. A com- 
pany of Nagas, about May, 1917, after the 
advance at Arras in April, were sent up to 
somewhere near Boisleux to bury dead horses. 
The dead horses were disposed of — but not 
by burial. And in addition an Infantry Bri- 
gade in the neighbourhood had soon to mourn 
the loss of all their dogs." 

The Chinese were a constant source of 
amusement and interest to the British. All 
that neatness and delicacy of finger which is 
shown in Chinese art and hand-work, the in- 
finite pains, the careful finish which the China- 
man inherits from his age-long, patient past, 
were to be seen even in the digging of trenches. 
Their defence lines were a marvel of finish, 
in spite of the fact that in hard manual labour 
they were ahead of any other unit — shifting, 
often, 240 cubic feet of soil per day, per man. 
As porters, too, they were beyond rivalry; 
and their contempt for the German prisoners' 
capacity in this direction was amusing. A 
Chinese coolie, watching two prisoners handle 
a stack of cased goods, could not at last con- 


tain himself. He walked up to them, saying: 
"Hun no damn good," and proceeded to show 
them how it should be done. The stolidity of 
the Chinaman is generally proof against sur- 
prise, but some of those coming from the back- 
woods of Northern China were occasionally 
bewildered and overwhelmed when set down 
amid the amazing and to them terrifying won- 
ders of the "back" of a European Army. One 
company of such men arrived at their appointed 
camp, and the next day there was a fight with 
enemy aeroplanes overhead. One of the poor 
coolies was so terrified that he went and hanged 
himself, and the rest could only be pacified 
with great difficulty. On the other hand, a 
flying officer once offered a ride to a Chinese 
ganger who, with his men, had been doing 
some work on an aerodrome for the R.A.F. 
"The ganger went up with glee; and the 
pilot's feelings may be imagined when, at a 
good height, he looked round and saw the 
ganger standing up, as happy as could be, 
looking over the edge and pointing down to the 
camp where his company lived, and other 
landmarks he was able to recognise." 

Of the noble army of women, who, since 
1917, have formed part of that great force 


behind the fighting hnes I have been rapidly 
sketching — what shall one say but good and 
grateful things ? 

In 1917, as our car wound through the nar- 
row streets of Montreuil, I remember noticing 
a yellow car in front of us, unlike the usual 
Army car, and was told that it contained the 
new head of the Women's Army AuxiHary 
Corps, and that 10,000 women were now to be 
drafted into France, to take the place of men 
wanted for the fighting line. And a little later 
at Abbeville I found General Asser, then 
Inspector-General of the Lines of Communica- 
tion, deep in the problems connected with the 
housing and distribution of the new Women's 
Contingent. "Two women want the accom- 
modation of three men; but three women 
can only do the work of two men." That 
seemed to be the root fact of the moment, 
and accommodation and work were being 
calculated accordingly. Then the women 
f came, and took their place in the clerical staffs 
of the various mihtary departments, of Army 
or other Headquarters, in the Army canteens, 
in the warehouses and dep6ts of the ports. 
It is clear that, during the concluding year of 
the war, they rendered services of which Brit- 
ish women may reasonably be proud; and in 


the retreat of last March, by universal testi- 
mony, they bore themselves with special cool- 
ness and pluck. Many of them were suddenly 
involved in the rush and confusion of battle, 
which was never meant to come near them. 
They took the risks and bore the strain of 
it with admirable composure. The men be- 
side whom they marched or rode when depots 
canteens, and headquarters disappeared in the 
general over-running of our fighting lines, 
took note ! It was yet another page in that 
history of a new womanhood we are all col- 
laborating in to-day. And I will add a last 
touch, within my personal knowledge, when 
in January, at Montreuil, in a room at G.H.Q., 
an officer of A. described to me how he had 
recently interviewed a gathering of women 
belonging to Queen Mary's Auxiliary Army 
Corps, and had asked them whether they 
wished to be immediately demobilised. Al- 
most without exception the answer came: 
"Not while we can be useful to the Army." 
They had enlisted for the war; the war was 
not over, in spite of the Armistice; and, 
though it would be pleasant to go home, they 
still stuck to their job. 

Thus hastily I have run through the labour 
of various kinds which was the base and 


condition of the fighting force. I have left 
myseK room for only a few last words as to 
that Directing Intelhgence which was its brain 
and soul — L e,, the Staff work of the Army — 
from the brilliant and distinguished men at 
General Headquarters immediately surround- 
ing the Commander-in-Chief, down to the 
Brigade and Battalion Staffs, the members of 
which actually conduct the daily and nightly 
operations of war from the close neighbour- 
[: hood of the fighting hne. In a preceding chap- 
ter I have given a general outline of the duties 
falling to the Staff of the First Army in the 
attack on the Hindenburg line. The range 
and variety of them was immense. But their 
success, no less than the success of the cam- 
paign as a whole, depended on the faithful 
execution of all the minor Staff work of the 
Army, from the battalion upward. The skill, 
precision and personal bravery required from 
the oflScers concerned are not as much realised, 
I think, as they ought to be by the public at 
home. An officer engaged as a Brigade-Major 
* in the fight on the Ancre, September, 1917, 
has written me a detailed account of four 
days' experience in that battle, involving the 
relief of one brigade by another, and a success- 
ful but difficult attack, which gives a vivid 
idea of Staff work as carried on in the actual 


fighting line itself. We see, first, the night 
journey of the four infantry battalions and 
their machine-gun company and trench-mortar 
battery, from Albert to Pozieres by motor-bus, 
then the four-mile march of the troops in 
darkness and rain along a duck-board track, 
to the trenches they were to relieve. The 
Brigade-Major describes the elaborate prepa- 
ration needed for every movement of the re- 
lief and the attack, and the anxiety in the 
Brigade Headquarters, a dug-out twenty feet 
below the ground, when the telephone — which 
is constantly cut by shell fire — fails to an- 
nounce the arrival of each company at its 
appointed place. Presently, the left company 
of the battalion on the left is missing. In 
the darkness, and the congestion of men mov- 
ing up to and back from the trenches on the 
narrow track, clearly something has gone 
wrong. The Brigade-Major sets out to dis- 
cover the why and wherefore. The attack is 
to start at 6 a. m., and from 9 p. m. till nearly 
5 A. M. — that is, for close on eight hours, the 
Brigade-Major is up and down the track, in- 
quiring into the causes of delay — (a trench, for 
instance, has been blown in at one point, and 
the men forced into the mud beside it) — 
watching and helping the assembly of the 


troops, and "hunting" for the company which 
has not arrived, and is "apparently lost." 
About five he returns to his brigade, hoping 
for the best. 

Then, half an hour before the moment ap- 
pointed for the advance, "we heard a bom- 
bardment starting. The enemy had either 
discovered the hour of our attack, or were 
about to attack us." The Brigadier and his 
Brigade-Major anxiously go up to the top of 
their dug-out to survey the field. It is clear 
that the British line is being heavily attacked. 
Messages begin to arrive from the battalion 
commander on the left to say that all com- 
munication with his companies has now been 
cut. The commander on the right also rings 
up to report heavy casualties. Then the tele- 
phone wires on both sides are broken, and the 
Staff signal officer goes out to repair them un- 
der fire. At last, precisely at the moment 
appointed, five minutes past six, in the rainy 
autumn dawn, our own guns — an enormous 
concentration of them — open a tremendous 
fire, and the earth-shaking noise "helps men 
to forget themselves, and go blind for the 
enemy." Then steadily the artillery barrage 
goes forward, one hundred yards every four 
minutes, and the infantry advance behind it. 


past the German front trench, to a ravine 
about three hundred yards further, which is 
known to be strongly held. The final objec- 
tive is a strong German position protecting a 
village in the valley of the Ancre. 

Meanwhile, in the headquarters' dug-out, 
messages come pouring in "by telephone, by 
lamp-signal, by wireless, by pigeon, by run- 
ners, and reports dropped from aeroplanes." 
The progress of the battle is marked on the 
maps spread out on a table in the dug-out, and 
the Brigadier has to decide when his reserve 
battalion must be sent forward to assist. 
Information is scanty and contradictory, but 
"at half -hourly intervals the situation, as we 
believed it to be, was telephoned to our Divi- 
sional Headquarters and to the brigades on 
either flank." Reports come in of success at 
certain places and a check at others; also of 
a German counter-attack. All reports agree 
that casualties have been heavy. The ravine, 
indeed, has been taken with seven hundred 
prisoners, but the situation is still so obscure 
that "the Brigadier sent me out to find out 
the real situation." 

"So I started out with an orderly." The 
direct route to be taken was under fire and had 
to be circumvented. "I was making for an 


old dug-out in a small ravine, where some 
men of our left attacking battalion had suf- 
fered heavily whilst assembling prior to the 
attack. The area was still being shelled, and 
we made a bolt for the dug-out, which we 
reached safely." In the dug-out is the com- 
mander of the support battahon, who reports 
that the commanders of the attacking bat- 
taUons have gone forward to the big ravine. 
''I found out all I could from him, and then 
went forward with him to the ravine." On 
the way the Staff oflSicer notices that the wire 
entanglements in front of the German trenches 
are still formidable and have not been properly 
cut by our artillery. "When we reached the 
big ravine we crawled down the steep bank 
to the bottom of it, and the first sight that we 
saw was the entrance to a German dug-out, 
with its previous occupants lying at the mouth 
of it. . . . I then found the commander of 
the left attacking battalion, who had estab- 
lished his headquarters in an old German dug- 
out." From him the Brigade-Major hears a 
ghastly tale of casualties. Not a single oflScer 
left, with any of his four attacking companies ! 
Yet in spite of the loss of all their company 
officers, and of the fact that the left company 
of the battalion had been practically wiped 


out before the attack started, the greater por- 
tion of the battahon, led by their regimental 
sergeant-major, had reached their final ob- 
jective. ... "It was certainly," says the 
Brigade-Major quietly, "a very magnificent 

Meanwhile he finds the commander of the 
right battalion further up the ravine. The 
greater portion of the support battalion is also 
in the ravine. Here there were elements of 
three battalions, considerably disorganised, 
suffering from want of sleep and a terribly hard 
time. The commanders, dead beat, want rein- 
forcements, and take a pessimist view. The 
Brigade-Major, coming fresh, thinks, on the 
contrary, that there are already too many 
men on the ground, who only want reorganis- 
ing. To satisfy himself he goes forward, with 
the adjutant of the right battalion, to find out 
"exactly where our leading troops were and 
in what condition." 

"I satisfied myself of the exact situation, and having visited 
the troops of the brigades on both flanks, went back to the 
ravine, and from one of the battalion headquarters telephoned 
to my Brigadier and told him what I had found out. I men- 
tioned that both the battalion commanders said they needed 
more troops to reinforce them, but added that in my opinion 
there were already sufficient troops on the spot, and that 
all that was necessary was that they should be placed under 


the command of one officer, and reorganised by battalions, to 
bold their present positions. I told him everything I knew, 
and tried to give him a good idea of the condition of the troops 
on the spot. He then sent orders to me that the senior bat- 
talion commander was to assume command of all troops on 
the brigade front, and that under his orders they were to be 
reorganised into battalions and companies, in order that the 
defence should be as strong and efficient as possible. I then 
returned to Brigade Headquarters to tell my Brigadier more 
fully what I had seen." 

The following night the brigade was relieved, 
after what was on the whole a very successful 
action. All the oJBScers responsible for its Staff 
work seem to have been on duty, without rest 
or sleep, for some thirty-six hours, and after 
the attack was over there were still German 
prisoners to be examined. 

Such is Staff work in the actual battle-line. 
What it needs of will, courage, and endurance 
will be clear, I think, to anyone reading this 
account, and the experience may be taken as 
typical of thousands like it at every stage of the 
war, so long as it was a war of trenches and po- 
sitions. And what is also typical is that while 
the personal risks of the writer are scarcely 
hinted at, his mind, amid all his cares of super- 
intendence and organisation, is still passion- 
ately alive to the individual risks and sufferings 
of his comrades. He ends on what he calls 


"another small point which deserves men- 

"When the oflScers and men of those two attacking battalions 
lay in the mud on that pitch-black night, soaked to the skin 
and shivermg with cold, as they lay there waiting for the awful 
hour when it seems as if horror itself has been let loose, and as 
they wondered in their own minds what lay before them, 
gradually the German bombardment started, and then by 
degrees increased in mtensity, until for fully thirty minutes 
before zero hour it became perfect hell. Every one of those 
officers and men, without a doubt, realised that the enemy had 
discovered that he was going to be attacked, and that he 
would be on the alert and waiting for them. Yet did any one 
of them falter, did any one of them for a single moment 
dream of not starting with the rest of his comrades and doing 
what he knew it was his duty to do ? 

"I only know two things: Firstly, that a very great number 
of them, if not all, realised only too well that the enemy had 
discovered our plans; and, secondly, that the only ones who 
did not start were those who could not, because they had 
been either killed or wounded." 

And now turn with me to the top of all — the 
General Staff of the Army in France — the brain 
of the whole mighty movement. It was with 
no light emotion that I found myself last Janu- 
ary, on a bitter winter day, among a labyrinth 
of small rooms running round the quadrangle of 
the old Ecole Militaire at Montreuil, while they 
were still full of Staff officers gathering up the 
records of the war. Here, or in the Staff train 
moving with the Commander-in-Chief along the 


front, the vast organisation of battle culmi- 
nated in a few guiding brains from which ener- 
gising and unifying direction flowed out to all 
parts of the field of war. Here were the heads 
of Q., of A., of G. — in other words, of Supply, 
Reinforcement, and Operations. In a bare 
room, with a few chairs and tables and an iron 
stove, the Director of Operations was at work; 
close by was the office of the Quartermaster- 
General, while up another staircase and along 
another narrow passage were the quarters of 
the Adjutant-General; and somewhere, I sup- 
pose, in the now historic building, was or had 
been the office of the Commander-in-Chief 
himseK. The Intelligence Department was 
not far off, I knew, in the old town; I tad been 
its grateful guest in 1917. The directing In- 
telligence of the Army flowed out from here 
to the front, while from the front, at the same 
time, there came back a constant stream of 
practical knowledge and experience, keeping 
the life of G.H.Q. perpetually fresh, correct- 
ing theory by experience and kindling experi- 
ence by theory. The complexities and re- 
sponsibilities of the work done were vast 

"At any time,'* says an officer of the General Staff, "dur- 
ing the operations of the past year, work was commenced 
here in the office, or on the train, when G.H.Q. was ad- 


vanced nearer the battle-line, at any hour before nine o'clock. 
The work to be done consists, in general terms, of co-ordinating 
all the arrangements for the operations undertaken and car- 
ried out by the several armies; the issuing of general orders 
and instructions for operations, the details of which were 
worked out by the armies concerned; the issuing of orders 
for the movement of divisions, of artillery units, cavalry, and 
Tanks — in fact, all the different services which go to make up 
the Army. These orders must be so arranged as to fit in 
with the roads and railway facilities, or the mechanical trans- 
port available, and must be so couched as not to interfere or 
clash with arrangements made by the armies in the Army areas. 
This necessitates very intimate liaison with the armies and with 
the departments concerned. Maps have to be kept up to 
date, showing the dispositions of troops at all times, both on 
the battle-front and in back areas. 

*'In addition, there are the arrangements with our Allies, 
the fixing of areas between ourselves and our Allies, and 
between our own armies and the lines of communication. 
During operations messages have to be sent out giving informa- 
tion of the situation to the troops, to the public, and to the 
War Office at home. Schemes are worked out beforehand to 
deal with any possible eventuality, so that in the event of a 
hostile attack the movement of troops may be carried out 
with the least possible delay. Similar schemes are worked out 
for operations to be undertaken by ourselves, and methods 
of attack are thrashed out in consultation with the Army 
Commanders and Staff. The various details of this work fill 
in the day very thoroughly. This office (of Operations) 
rarely closes before midnight, and the principal officers are 
frequently at work until the small hours of the morning. 
There is, of course, an officer on duty all night. 

"During the German attack in March the officer responsible 
here for the movement of troops by rail did not leave the 
office even for meals for a number of days on end.'* 


So the long ascent climbs, from the humblest 
platoon in the field, through company, battal- 
ion, division, corps, and Army to the General 
StaflF, and the British Commander-in-Chief, 
moving and directing the whole; with beyond 
these, again, as the apex of the great construc- 
tion, the figure of the illustrious Frenchman, 
who for the last six months of the war, by the 
common consent of the Allies, and especially 
by the free will of England and her soldiers, 
held the general scheme of battle in his hands. 
In the British Army what we have been watch- 
ing is an active hierarchy of duty, discipline, 
loyalty, intelligence — the creation of a whole 
people, bent on victory for a great cause. 
Must it, indeed, vanish with the war, like a 
dream at cock-crow, or shall we yet see its 
marvellous training, its developments of mind 
and character, gradually take other shapes and 
enter into other combinations — ^for the saving 
and not the slaying of men ? 


June 1st. 

I have thus brought these rapid notes — 
partly of things seen, partly of things read — to 
an end. They might, of course, go on for ever, 
and as I write I seem to see rising before me 
those libraries of the future, into which will 
come crowding the vast throng of books deal- 
ing in ever greater and greater detail with the 
events of the war and the causes of victory. 
But this slight summary sketch of the military 
events, and especially of the final "effort" of 
England and the Empire, in the campaign of 
last year, which I set myself to do, is accom- 
plished, however inadequately. Except, in- 
deed, for one huge omission which every reader 
of these few pages will at once suggest. I have 
made only a few references here and there to 
the British Navy. Yet on the British Navy, 
as we all know, everything hung. If the Navy 
could not have protected our shores, and broken 
the submarine peril; if the British Admiralty 
had not been able to hold the Channel against 
the enemy and ward him off from the coasts 
and ports of France; if the British ships and 



British destroyers had not been there to bring 
over 70 per cent, of the American Armies, and 
food both for ourselves and the AUies; if the 
sea-routes between us and our Colonies, be- 
tween us and the East, could not have been 
maintained, Germany at this moment would 
have been ruling triumphant over a prostrate 
world. The existence and power of the Navy 
have been as vital to us as the air we breathed 
and the sun which kept us ahve, and the pres- 
sure of the British blockade was, perhaps, the 
dominating element in the victory of the Allies. 
But these things are so great and so evident 
that it seemed in this httle book best to take 
them for granted. They have been the pre- 
suppositions of all the rest. What has not yet 
been so clear — or so I venture to think — to 
our own people or our Alhes, has been the full 
glory of the part played by the Armies of the 
British Empire in the concluding phases of the 
war. The temporary success of the German 
sortie of last spring — a mere episode in the 
great whole — ^made so deep an impression on the 
mind of this nation, that the real facts of an 
annus mirabilis, in their true order and propor- 
tion, are only now, perhaps, becoming plain to 
us. It was in order to help ever so little in 
this process that I have tried to tell, as it ap- 


pears to me, the end of that marvellous story 
of which I sketched the beginnings in England's 

These main facts, it seems to me, can hardly 
be challenged by any future pressure from that 
vast critical process which the next generation, 
and generations after, will bring to bear upon 
the war. The mistakes made, the blunders 
here, or shortcomings there, of England's 
mighty effort, will be all canvassed and exposed 
soon enough. The process indeed has already 
begun. And when the first mood of thankful 
relief from the constant pre-occupation of the^ 
war is over, we may expect to see it in full 
blast. It would have been easy here to repeat 
some of the current discontents of the day, all 
of which will have their legitimate hearing in 
future discussion. But this is not the moment, 
nor is mine ihe pen. We are but just emerging 
from the shadow of that peril from which the 
British and Imperial Armies — ^bone of our bone 
and flesh or our flesh — have saved us. Let us 
now, if ever, praise the "famous men" of the 
war, and gather into our hearts the daily efforts, 
the countless sacrifices of countless thousands, 
in virtue of which we now live our quiet lives. 

Nor have I dwelt much upon the terrible 
background of the whole scene, the physical 


horror, the anguish and suffering of war. Our 
noblest dead, to judge from the most impas- 
sioned and inspired utterances of the men who 
have suffered for us, would bid us indeed re- 
member these things, — ^remember them with 
all the intensity of which we are capable — ^but 
with few words. They never counted the cost, 
though they knew it well; and what they set 
out to do, they have done. 

Let us then, at this particular moment, dwell, 
above all, on the thing achieved. To that end, 
a few colossal figures must still be added to 
those already given. Since the beginning of the 
war, the total forces employed by the British 
Empire in the various theatres of war, have 
amounted to a total of eight million, six hundred 
and fiS^y-four thousand (24 per cent of the total 
white male population), of which the United 
Kingdom supplied 5,704,416 (25.36 per cent), 
and the Dominions, and Colonies, 1,425,864. 
The Indian and Coloured troops amounted to 
1,524,000. If the Navy, the Merchant Ser- 
vice, and the men and women employed in 
various auxihary military services at home are 
added, the total recruiting effort of the Empire 
reaches to much more than ten millions. 

As to the financial part of this country in 
the war, by March 22nd, 1919, the war expendi- 


ture of Great Britain had reached a total of 
£9,482,442,482, of which rather more than 
two thousand five hundred millions have been 
raised by taxation. Included in this total 
are sums amounting to £1,683,500,000, lent to 
our Allies and Dominions. For the total 
casualties of the war, in an earlier chapter I 
have given the approximate figures so far as 
they can as yet be ascertained, amounting to at 
least some twenty millions. At such appalling 
cost then, in death, suffering and that wealth 
which represents the accumulated labour of 
men, have the liberties of Europe been rescued 
from the German attack. We are victors in- 
deed; we have won to the shore; but the wreck 
of the tempest lies all round us; and what is 
the future to be.^ 

It is four months now, since, in. the splendid 
rooms of the Villa Murat, I listened to President 
Wilson describing the sitting of the Conference 
at which the Resolution was passed consti- 
tuting the League of Nations — four months 
big with human fate. The terms of peace are 
published, and at the present moment no one 
knows whether Germany will sign them or no. 
The League of Nations is in existence. It has 
'a home, a Constitution, a Secretariat. But 
the outlook over Europe is still dark and trou- 
bled, and the inner League of Three is still the ! 


surest ground in the chaos, the starting-point 
of the future. The Peace Terms are no final 
solution — how could they be ? On their prac- 
tical execution, on their adaptation year by year 
to the new world coming into being, all will de- 
pend. German militarism has met its doom. 
The triumph of the Allies is more absolute than 
any of them could have dreamed four years ago. 
Nor can the German crime ever be forgotten 
in this generation, or the German peril ignored. 
The whole civilised world must be — ^will be — 
the shield of France should any fresh outrage 
threaten her. But after justice comes mercy. 
Because Germany has shown herself a criminal 
nation, not all Germans are criminal. That 
same British Army which as it fought its vic- 
torious way through the German defences in 
the last four months of the war, and, while 
it fought the enemy, fed and succoured at the 
same time 800,000 French civilians — men and 
officers dividing their rations with starving 
women and children, and in every pause of 
fighting, spending all their energies in comfort- 
ing the weak, the hungry, and the sick: — that 
very Army is sorry now for the German women 
and children, as it sees them in the] German 
towns. It is our own soldiers who have been 
demanding food and pity. 
The Allies, indeed, have been for some time 


sending food to their starving enemies. Mr. 
Hoover — all honour to the great man ! — is 
ceaselessly at work. If only no hitch in the 
Peace interrupts the food-trains and the in- 
coming ships, so that no more children die ! 

Some modifications in the Peace Terms 
would, clearly, be accepted by the public 
opinion of the Allied countries. No one, I be- 
lieve, who has seen the Lens district, and the 
deliberate and cruel destruction of the French 
industrial north, will feel many qualms about 
the Saar valley. We may hold a personal 
opinion that it might have been wiser for 
France in her own interests to claim the coal 
only. But it is for France to decide, and it will 
be for the League of Nations to watch over the 
solution she has insisted on, in the common in- 
terest. But concessions as to Upper Silesia 
and East Prussia would be received, I have little 
doubt, with general relief and assent; and the 
common sense of Europe will certainly see both 
the wisdom and expediency of setting German 
industry to work again as speedily as possible, 
and of so arranging and facilitating the pay- 
ment of her huge money debt to the Allies that 
it should not weigh too intolerably on the life 
of an unborn generation — an innocent gen- 
eration, who will grow up, as it is, inevitably. 


under one of the darkest shadows ever east by 

Meanwhile now that the just and stern ver- 
dict of Europe has been given on the war and its 
authors, the second and greater half of the Al- 
lied task remains. Vast questions are left to 
the League of Nations, outside the Peace; the 
re-settlement, politically, of large tracts of 
Europe; the whole problem of disarmament, in- 
volving the future of British and American sea- 
power; the responsibilities of America in 
Europe; the economic adjustment of the 
world. But perhaps the greatest problem of 
all is the ethical one. How long shall we 
keep our wrath ? Germany has done things in 
this war which shame civilisation, and seem to 
make a mockery of all ideas of human pro- 
gress. But yet ! — we must still believe in them ; 
or the sun will go out in heaven. We must still 
believe that in the long run hatred kills the 
civilised mind, and to put it at its lowest, is a 
mortal waste of human energies. Has Chris- 
tianity, swathed as it is in half -decayed beliefs, 
any longer power to help us.f^ Yet whatever 
else in the Christian system is breaking down, 
the Christian idea of a common fellowship of 
man holds the field as never before. And both 
the Christian idea and common sense tell us 



that till there is again some sort of international 
life in Europe, Europe will be unsound and her 
wounds unhealed. We call it impossible. But 
the good man, the just man, the merciful man 
is still among us, and — 

"What he wills, he does; and does so much 
That proof is called impossibility." 

Mary A. Ward. 




[*As I have already stated, in a footnote, I owe permission to pub- 
lish this small reproduction of an interesting and unique document 
to the kindness of Lieut .-General the Hon. Sir Herbert Lawrence, 
K.C.B., etc., Chief of the General Staff.] 



I The Chart. — ^This Chart is a small scale reproduction 
of one used and corrected from day to day at 
British G.H.Q. in France. It shows graphically 
the actual position at any given date of the British 
forces in fighting strength, front held, and 
HEAVY gun power: whcu big operations are in 
progress it gives at a glance the number of casu- 
alties incurred and prisoners taken, perhaps the 
surest indication of the measure of success gained. 
Owing to the size of the reproduction, the hori- 
zontal scale lines of the original Chart cannot be 
given. To calculate a number at any particular 
date from the Chart as reproduced, it is only neces- 
sary to measure with a rule the height of the de- 
sired line at the given date. Reference to the 
appropriate numerical scale at the side will then 
give the number. 
1916, Strength and Front. — ^Begin with the front 
and FIGHTING STRENGTH Hncs. The Strength hue 
tells the Commander his actual numbers (by ref- 
erence to scale 2), but he needs more. He looks 
at the line representing Front and marks the pro- 

[* My readers will be as grateful as I am to Captain W. 0. Barton, 
lately at work at G.H.Q., for this vivid explanation of the Chart.] 



portion it bears to Fighting Strength. Measure 
these lines in mid-June, 1916. Since January, 
FRONT (scale 1) has expanded by about one-fifth 
— from 67 to 90 miles. The Chart shows the 
reason. But meanwhile Fighting Strength^ then the 
vital factor for attack, has risen from 470,000 to 
680,000, nearly one-half. The Army has been 
built up by new Divisions for the great Somme 

Casualties. — ^The battle opens. The red line of casu- 
alties leaps into prominence and, with its ascent, 
STRENGTH falls. Reinforcements are needed. They 
arrive to replace casualties, and strength goes up 
again. So through the long conflict these lines act 
and react. Ground is won, but hardly and at great 
cost: the ascent of the Front line is slow. 

Prisoners. — What are the enemy losses ? How are his 
men fighting.^ The prisoners line (scale 5) tells 
best. Gradually the proportion of prisoners to 
(British) casualties increases: his casualties are 
growing, his resistance becoming less effective: the 
wearing-out process tells. Mark the concluding f 
phases of the Somme battle. The prisoners Hne 
is nearer to that of casualties. The Tank has been 
introduced, and here is ocular evidence of its effec- 
tiveness. More tanks is one of the lessons of the 

1917, Arras. — The Somme fighting ends. Again our 
armies are built up, until the 760,000 point is 
reached, front, increased to nearly 120 miles 
by a relief of French troops, falls again to 105, 
owing to the German retirement about Arras. 


Heavy guns have increased from just over 300 to 
1,500. Again our armies are ready, and the Battle 
of Arras opens the allied spring offensive. It 
is immediately effective, for casualties never reach 
the same height as in the Somme, and prisoners 
are much more numerous. The lines for the two 
battles show the difference vividly. But mark the 
big curve downward of the strength Une. Cas- 
ualties are now not so easily replaced. 

Messines, Ypres, Passchendaele. — ^Before strength 
is fully restored the Messines ridge is rent with 
mines (June 7th) and taken. July is devoted to 
preparation: strength reaches its zenith, guns 
still increase, and on July 31st the Battle of Ypres 
opens the great northern offensive. Fighting is 
bitter, and more costly than at Arras; casualties 
are at first high in relation to prisoners, but the 
PRISONERS line, as in the Somme, but more con- 
sistently, tends upward. The German is not 
"sticking" the terrible conditions and fierce fight- 
ing so well as the Britisher. 

Cambrai. — ^Then, in December, comes our surprise 
attack at Cambrai: it is effective, for prisoners 
nearly approaches casualties, line increases, 
owing to the salient formed by the British advance. 
Then, the German counter-attack, with casualties 
high, prisoners few, and line decreasing. The 
Germans have reduced the saHent made by our 

Italy's Plight. — But meanwhile, the enemy has struck 
at Italy, and Italy, reeling under his blows, is 
clamant for aid. Division after Division hurries 


aff ! STRENGTH falls, never again to ascend. The 
handicap is permanent. 

1918. With STRENGTH almost at its lowest since 1916, 
after a year of ceaseless fighting and heavy casual- 
ties, with five Divisions diverted to Italy, miles of 
FRONT have to be taken over from the French. 
Line held reaches its maximum, 130 miles. Fight- 
ing strength has fallen by mid-March — ^when Divi- 
sions have been reorganised from 12 to 9 battalions, 
owing to the dwindling of reinforcements — to 

The German Thrusts. — ^The Chart has shown when 
we might attack. Now it gives the warning to 
expect attack. Now, if ever, is Germany's moment, 
and her first great blow falls on March 21st — the 
thrust at Amiens, casualties soar to a height 
never before approached. The red line predomi- 
nates — strength falls and falls. Divisions are sum- 
moned from Italy and Egypt. The second German 
blow falls on the Lys. casualties are again im- 
mense, though not so high as in the first attack. 
STRENGTH falls again. The Lys salient increases the 
line held, but by the end of May the Line is firm 
throughout. Some few thousand Americans for a 
time reinforce the war-weary British Divisions; 
but the Portuguese cease to be reckoned in our 
fighting strength, though still in France. 
Reorganisation follows, strength is built up a 
little, though casualties are still heavy. The 
IXth Corps is fighting fiercely on the French Front 
to stem the Paris Thrust in May, and four British 
Divisions help in Foch*s July counter-thrust. 


Guns, despite our losses to the enemy, have again 
increased. Guns are now more easily replaced 
than men. 

The Final Phases. — ^Then the final phase. With de- 
creased FIGHTING STRENGTH but with abundant 
GUNS (and, be it added, Tanks), we strike our first 
great blow in the Battle of Amiens on August 8th. 
STRENGTH falls abruptly, casualties are many, but 
high above the casualty line soars — for the first 
time — the line of prisoners. The toll taken of the 
German armies increases, as Bapaume and the 
Scarpe swiftly follow Amiens. 

The Vital Line. — Now the prisoners line has become 
vital. Consider the position in December before 
what is, perhaps, the decisive battle of the world 
war, the breaking of the Hindenburg line. Guns 
are ever increasing, line has fallen somewhat, but 
lower even than in the dark days of spring has fallen 
the line of fighting strength. To the General, 
studying this line alone, attack upon a position 
vaunted as impregnable would seem sheer madness. 
But he sees the Chart as a whole, with the prison- 
ers line dominating everything in its sustained 
height. The enemy's total casualties are incal- 
culable; never have ours been so few in com- 
parison with prisoners taken: the hammering of 
previous years has borne fruit : the German morale^ 
such is the lesson of the line, has gone irretrievably. 

The Great Decision. — So, despite his own weakness, 
despite heavy losses not made good, the Com- 
mander takes the great decision and stakes all. 
He strikes, lets loose the tempest of his guns, and 



his infantry, diminished but indomitable, sweep 
through the vast fortresses of the Hindenburg Hne, 
hurl the enemy from defence after defence, pass 
from victory to victory. 

Such is the story of the Chart. 

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his infantry, diminished but indomitable, sweep 
through the vast fortresses of the Hindenburg Hne, 
hurl the enemy from defence after defence, pass 
from victory to victory. 

Such is the story of the Chart. 

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